May 11, 1970
Almost defiantly, he stared at us. We stared back, intrigued. Sitting confidently in his beige fringed leather jacket, his magenta pants and his python-skin boots, a sea breeze whipping at his Sgt. Pepper locks, Super Hippie had somehow earned SI's cover. His name—the amusingly pedestrian David Smith—was as anonymous as his Peace Pentathlon. "I was a far-out choice for the cover," Smith, now 60, concedes, "but I can't tell you how many people told me, 'Hey, man, that's the first time I ever read the magazine.' "
Smith's five-event solo adventure was designed to show that sports could be challenging without being competitive. Over a span of six hours in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Smith—swashbucklingly clad in a tie-dyed tank top and buckskin loincloth—skydived into Pills-bury Sound, swam five treacherous miles from St. John to St. Thomas, scuba-dived through sea caves, ran for 90 minutes over jungle roads and rode a trail bike to the peak of St. Thomas's Mountaintop. Smith explained, "They're five events that people do for fun, not for war."
Smith had competed—and excelled—in golf, skeet shooting and swimming as a child in California but had come to abhor organized sports. He found starter's pistols "violent" and finish lines "uptight," and believed that people should take part in athletics to better themselves, not to defeat others. The Peace Pentathlon increased Smith's fame, and in October 1972 he put on the Everyman's Olympics: an Adventurer's Decathlon, which included events ranging from the strenuous (running a marathon in the Sahara Desert) to the Biblical (walking on water—aided by Styrofoam boots—down the Bou Regreg River in Morocco) to the bizarre (leading a two-hour yoga session for six hungover Danish models in one of Marrakech's exotic gardens). Smith became a regular on The Tonight Show, regaling Johnny Carson with tales of kayaking from Khartoum to Cairo in '77 and running a marathon through the Khyber Pass in '79. Says Smith of his years traveling the globe, "I wouldn't have traded my life for anybody's."
Since returning to college and earning his Ph.D. in health and human services from Columbia Pacific University in 1987, Smith has drawn on his experiences to write books (three) and give speeches (currently 40 a year) on risk-taking and teamwork. He also gives monthly talks to soon-to-be-released inmates on adjusting to life after prison. At home in Santa Cruz, Calif., Smith, who is divorced, communes with son Daren, 23, and daughter Chelsea, 19, or, when alone in his garden, ponders future projects while tending his fuchsia, marigolds and the occasional wildflower.