David Smith

From Openwaterpedia
Adventurer and open water swimmer

Dr. David Miln Smith is an American open water swimmer and adventurer from Santa Cruz, California, U.S.A. who was inducted as an Honour Swimmer in the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame in 1969. He is also a speaker and adventure athlete.

He made a name for himself in the 1960s and 1970s with a series of extreme and international multi-sports events, such as "Everyman's Olympics" and the "Peace Pentathlon." The latter got him on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1970, where he was dubbed "Super Hippie." Throughout the next few decades, he wrote books on yoga and health, and was the recurrent guest adventurer on television shows such as Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Johnny Carson said, “He travels around the world doing all the things you want to do.” The Today Show nicknamed him the King of the Risk Takers.

Open Water Swimming Highlights

  • He tried to become the first person to complete a crossing from Anacapa Island to the California mainland. In 1965, the Ventura Junior Chamber of Commerce decided it was time to call attention to the swimming possibilities off of Anacapa Island. They offered US$1,000 to the first successful swimmer to cross the channel. They set the swim window as 25-28 June 25-28. On 2 July 1965, 19-year-old Erick Gullen, 23-year-old Smith, and Canadian Betty Benedict left together and are believed to either have abandoned the swim or not started it at all.
  • He swam across San Francisco Bay under the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • He swam the width of Loch Ness
  • He swam 48 km (30 miles) down the Russian River in California from Healdsburg to Monte Rio in 11 hours and 45 minutes.
  • He swam 101 km (63 miles) down the Sacramento River in California (swim halted when a crew member broke their hand).
  • In 1966, he was the first to swim from Africa to Spain.
  • In 1967, he swam (the first to do so) 14.4 km across the Strait of Gibraltar from Morocco to The Rock of Gibraltar in a shark cage.
  • He swam from shore to shore, around the Rock of Gibraltar in October 1972 - about 7.5 miles
  • He swam across the Hellespont, Bosporus (Istanbul Strait) in Turkey.
  • He competed in professional marathon swims in Italy, Yugoslavia and Egypt.

Other Adventure Highlights

  • He kayaked 2,000 miles down the Nile starting near Khartoum
  • He trekked solo across the Sahara desert in 1968. This was 300 miles from Marrakech over the high Atlas Mountains
  • He challenged a bull in a private ring and Spain - and went to the hospital
  • He raced a local champion across a fridge river in the Himalayas (Hunza - Shangri-La)
  • He ran with a local hunter in a Wanderobo village in central Kenya

International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame Induction

  • Back in 1969, David Miln Smith was inducted into The International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame. But the committee couldn't find him. To receive an award posthumously means after death. What's the word for "40 years late"? In 13 May 2006, Smith officially received the reward at the International Swimming Hall of Fame Awards Ceremony in Fort Lauderdale, Florida joining the exclusive company of Gertrude Ederle, Florence Chadwick and Johnny Weissmuller.
  • The award, presented by Dale Petranech, Honorary Secretary of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, was for being the first person to swim from Africa to Europe, among other distance swims. John Evans, noted expert on Leadership, introduced Smith, saying, "Besides being an international marathon swimmer, Dr. David Miln Smith is an international humanitarian. He is an ambassador of goodwill, an innovator of adventure sports and 'the extreme.' But swimming distances is only one side of David. He's also a writer of books on health and wellness, personal change and overcoming fear. Over the past 27 years, he's led 54 wilderness adventures for schizophrenic patients on the Appalachian Trail, and conducted 290 programs in prisons, including San Quentin, on how to 'get a job instead of do a job.'"
  • Smith opened his acceptance speech by saying, "More important than this award is the reward international marathon swimming gave me. The challenge of the swims opened my life to new horizons, infinite possibilities and the ability to travel the world in novel, intense, athletic endurance explorations. Marathon swimming turned me into an explorer."

Motivational Speaker

As a keynote speaker in the corporate world, Smith's adventure stories never fail to generate laughter and inspire. He shows audiences how to embrace their fears, navigate through unknown territory, take risks, and accomplish the impossible. He made a career out of accomplishing such "impossible" feats, starting with the swim from Africa to Europe, trekking the Sahara solo, and kayaking 2000 miles down the Nile. By 1977 he was awarded England's "The Spirit of Ecstasy" award for "Personification of Mind and Body." He was twice selected the Adventurer of the Year, and is a member of The Explorers Club. He went back to university later in life and graduated summa cum laude (with highest honors) from the University of West Florida and holds a Ph.D. in Health and Human Services. Author of three books, Smith now lives in Santa Cruz, California.

Published works

  • Hug The Monster: How to Embrace Your Fears and Live Your Dreams (with Sandra Leicester) (Andrews & McMeel, Random House, 1996)
  • Healing Journey: The Odyssey of an Uncommon Athlete (Sierra Club Books/Random House, 1983)
  • The East/West Exercise Book (McGraw-Hill, 1976)


External links