Gene "Tarzan" Smith
The Definitive History of the Legendary Surfer & Paddler
Aloha and welcome to this introduction to the complete chapter of Gene "Tarzan" Smith.
He was one of the great ocean paddlers of all time - some say the greatest.
An early California surfer, he was also a lifeguard, Waikiki haole beachboy, fighter, and - later a Honolulu cop. He's credited with helping rediscover the North Shore of O'ahu as prime surf territory and his inter-island paddles are the stuff of legend. One day in the early 1980s, he walked out into the California desert and left the beach and all who knew him forever behind.
His name was Gene Smith, although he is best remembered by his nickname of "Tarzan," after the character immortalized by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Despite all that we know about him - especially his paddling records - he was such a loner, so different, and left surfing so strangely, that mystery surrounds his memory even today.
Thanks to friends like Gary Lynch and members of the Smith family, I was able to dig into the depth of who legendary paddler Gene "Tarzan" Smith really was, the accuracy of the legends that surround him, and a full inventory of his accomplishments.
Many of you have read the two articles I wrote about Tarzan for The Surfer's Journal, back a number of years ago:
- "Last Chapter: 'Tarzan' Smith", The Surfer's Journal, Volume 7, Number 4, Winter 1998.
- "TARZAN DEDUX: Chapter Fill-Ins From The Life of Gene Smith," The Surfer's Journal, Volume 13, Number 2, Spring/Summer 2004. Photographs from the Smith Family photo album.