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The World's First Peace Pentathlon
Robert F. Jones
May 11, 1970
In a five-event—swimming, parachuting, skin diving, running and trail biking—six-hour statement on the absurdity of competition, David Smith, also known as Super Hippie, vies with himself in an environment that is made up of Earth, Air, Fire Coral and Water
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May 11, 1970

The World's First Peace Pentathlon

In a five-event—swimming, parachuting, skin diving, running and trail biking—six-hour statement on the absurdity of competition, David Smith, also known as Super Hippie, vies with himself in an environment that is made up of Earth, Air, Fire Coral and Water

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Perhaps the tale of the world's first Peace Pentathlon should be told in comic-book form. Certainly the plot is graphic enough—full of bright colors, bold caricatures and quotes like SPLAT! and WOW! and VROOM! The characters themselves might have stepped out of Barbarella by way of Prince Valiant, with stops at Tarzan, Batman and Submariner. Then again, they might have stepped out of the Yellow Submarine.

Take the hero. Super Hippie, known to his friends as David Smith (see cover), a mild-mannered former child prodigy in golf, swimming and skeet (Northern California, Class D all-bore champion at 15) who has latterly devoted his life to a crusade against competition. Not that he doesn't compete. He does, with himself. But he rejects everything that smacks of organized athletics, from starter's pistols ("violent") to finish lines ("uptight"). Not to mention crew cuts. Super Hippie's hairdo makes Joe Namath look like Mr. Clean, and he has spaced-out eyes that scrutinize everything with X-ray vision. Well, at least he can see through a put-on.

Super Hippie's everyday costume—he calls it his No. 1 Adventurer's Outfit—is a sight to behold. Pythonskin boots with scales like new dimes. Bell-bottoms in a shade he calls "spiritual purple." A wool shirt with ballooning, black-velvet sleeves and five-inch cuffs cut from the gaudiest tablecloth in Tangier. All of it topped off by a leather vest with enough straps and buckles to give the Marquis de Sade a tingle. His No. 2 Adventurer's Outfit—the one he wears in action—is simpler: Adidas sneakers, a buckskin loincloth, a tie-dyed sleeveless undershirt in blue and orange with a white peace symbol on the chest. To change from No. 1 to No. 2. all he does is hum a few bars from the Beatles" Here Comes the Sun.

Then there's the Peace Pentathlon itself, a sequence of events that might have been lifted from the panels of Terry and the Pirates and reworked through the head of an underground newspaper cartoonist. The pentathlon was to take place in the U.S. Virgin Islands, which by themselves are a kind of funny-paper fantasy land. All in one day, and all by his noncompetitive lonesome. Super Hippie planned to parachute into the sea, swim a treacherous five-mile channel between St. John and St. Thomas, scuba dive through a chain of underwater caves, run for an hour and a half through jungle and countryside and wind up with a hairy trail-bike scramble up a steep and tortuous mountain road. Five physically demanding events, a test of versatility and endurance, run back to back with a minimum of rest in between. But why?

Super Hippie explained it all to a group of young black street fighters that he met on his first night in Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas. The kids wanted to reduce Super Hippie to honky hamburger (after all, he did look a bit weird), but he pacified them with his Brotherhood Rap, then bought them a drink at a waterfront bar.

"I'm David Smith and I'm down here to do this Peace Pentathlon," he said with a smile devoid of aggression.

Blank, wary stares.

"You dig the Olympic Games, right?"

"Yeah, man," said Charlie, the leader of the gang. "John Carlos and the black glove, I dig that."

"Well," said Super Hippie, hunched over a tall orange juice, "they have a thing in the Games called the pentathlon—that's Greek for a five-event athletic contest. Running, shooting, fencing, swimming and riding a strange horse over enemy turf. It's supposed to test the skills of a battlefield courier—like a messenger who's got the word from one general to another."

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