Missing football coach found safe in the Gulf after Florida kayaking trip

WALTON COUNTY, Fla (WDHN) — A high school coach from Sylacauga, Alabama, who was reported missing in the gulf early Thursday afternoon has been found.

A Walton County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson says Chris Smelley was spotted safe off the coast at around 6:00 p.m. Thursday by a U.S. Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk Helicopter. Coast Guard officials say Smelley had no injuries when he was found.


Smelley is the head football coach at Sylacauga High School in Sylacauga, Alabama. Multiple media outlets are reporting that Smelley played quarterback for the University of South Carolina.

Authorities said Smelley left Grayton Beach at 8:30 a.m. for a fishing trip in his black and blue kayak. A search for Smelley began that afternoon after the WCSO and South Walton Fire and Rescue could not contact him.

Courtesy of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the U.S. Coast Guard later joined the search.

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