Coast Guard Rescues 17-Year-Old Drifting Off Florida Coast

The girl had lost her paddle, she told authorities.

— -- The U.S. Coast Guard rescued a 17-year-old girl on Sunday night drifting in a kayak off the coast of Florida, officials said today.

Halfway through a 2-mile day trip from Fred Howard Park to the Anclote Keyes, Karlin O'Neill's arms got tired and she decided to turn around while her father, mother and brother continued on, according to Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Ashley J. Johnson.

On the solo trip back, O'Neill told authorities, she was caught in the wake of a boat, lost her paddle and started to drift.

"When the sun started setting and nighttime came I got really scared because I didn't think anyone would be able to see me," she told a local Fox affiliate. "The moonlight, the way it was hitting the waves, made it look like sharks, which kind of freaked me out."

Luckily, she stayed with her kayak and donned her life vest, she told authorities. Both the boat and the life jacket make missing persons easier to spot, according to the Coast Guard, which also noted that many life jackets also have reflective tape.

When the girl’s family realized she hadn’t made it back to Fred Howard Park, they notified authorities.

After a eight hours at sea, at 10:06 p.m., a Coast Guard chopper spotted her drifting off the coast of Tarpon Springs using an infrared camera.

When she realized authorities were on the scene, the girl -- then suffering from a mild case of hypothermia -- started waving her arms, an international signal of distress, the Coast Guard said.

A rescue crew recovered her and her kayak using a boat hook. She was reunited with her family and taken to a local hospital as a precaution, authorities said.

ABC News' Ebonee Williams contributed to this report.