Surf legend Theodore Kenneth Smith dies of apparent heart attack surfing WindanSea

By Dave Schwab

A shrine memorializing Theodore Kenneth Smith, 52, who died Saturday, Dec. 31 from drowning after he had an apparent heart attack while surfing, keeps growing each day at the corner of Bonair Street and Neptune Place in WindanSea as friends and families add bouquets of flowers, posters and other memorabilia.

Smith was eulogized by former business partner and lifelong friend and surf companion, Realtor Ozstar De Jourday, as the quintessential La Jolla surfer.

De Jourday said of Smith, whom he has surfed with since they were 9 and 11 years old, respectively, “he used to have the longest, shoulder-length white hair — it was just the ultimate surf look with real blue eyes.”

De Jourday added of his friend, who had a much different look at the end of his life, “The way he went out with a lot of love, doing it right there at WindanSea. … I don’t think you could write a better script. … If you have to go, have it happen real quick like that. Knowing he’s a spirit right now, I think that’s an Aloha gladiator.”

A makeshift memorial began to emerge honoring Smith almost immediately after his death.

De Jourday said a paddle out for Smith will be held Sunday, Jan. 15 at 1 p.m. at WindanSea Beach.

De Jourday said Smith was surfing with three other people, two adolescents and another man in his 60s, at the time of the incident. He said a friend in the lineup had waved Smith ahead and wished him a happy New Year while he was heading into a wave.

A short time later, a member of the group noticed Smith “swimming irregularly with his head down in the water which didn’t look right.”

De Jourday said Smith’s companions “had a really tough time getting him through the shorebreak to the beach.”

“A 911 call came in at 12:52 p.m. Dec. 31 about a group of surfers trying to assist an unconscious surfer to the beach at Neptuen and Playa del Norte just a little bit south of the Shack,” said Lt. Andy Lerum, San Diego Lifeguard spokesman. “Lifeguards responded from a short distance away at Children’s Pool. They arrived along with fire personnel and CPR was performed by medics.”

Lerum said Smith was transported to the hospital with CPR being performed en route.

“It’s unfortunate, he was known by a lot of lifeguards,” noted Lerum.

Smith died in the emergency room at Scripps La Jolla Hospital at 1:50 p.m., according to the Medical Examiner.

The exact cause of his death is still under investigation.

Smith had previously worked as a Realtor with Team De Jourday at Coldwell Banker La Jolla, and had been employed with the Hyatt Aventine at the time of his death.

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Posted by Dave Schwab on Jan 3, 2012. Filed under Featured Story, La Jolla, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

17 Comments for “Surf legend Theodore Kenneth Smith dies of apparent heart attack surfing WindanSea”

  1. Paul Mears

    Ted was a wonderful guy, he will be missed by all of us.
    Paul Mears

  2. Lisa Burk

    Aloha Tiger, you will always be in my heart… With love to his family and friends…Thank you God for sharing Teddy with us all…Much Love

  3. CheifAug

    The moment I saw you struggling in the water with Joey, the look of fear on his face, and the obvious need for help in your eyes, I reacted. At the time I didn't know your name, but something in me made me sprint/ swim to your side. It was so weird how just tens of minutes beforehand there was not a cloud in the sky, and that enchanted la jolla fog lurked down and blocked the sun. It felt eerie to say the least, it felt like it was time to prepare for something heavy. When we finally dragged you passed the wamp, I threw up, my heart was beating so fast. When me and the guys started doing CPR prior to the ambulance, and you coughed up all that water, and the blood started getting back into your head, I felt so relieved. That 20-somethin year old girl CHARGED giving you mouth to mouth, and you were breathing a little bit. You knew my brother, who was in the line up with you that day while I was bodysurfing in the shorebreak. He feared that it was me on the ground, feared I was down, and when he saw it was you, he was still freaking out. From that point forward I knew that you were a good dude, and that I would do what I could to help you. Along with the thirty or so people that were there, I cheered and prayed for you, begging the ocean to let you surf another day. We traded off doing CPR until the Lifegaurds got there, about 8 minutes, which seemed way too long man. I started to hear the sirens, and looked around for the first time since my brother got on shore. I could see at least ten people crying their eyes out as you clung to life on the beach there. That was the first time I had ever been in a life or death situation like that, and I gotta tell you brother, everybody within a mile was pulling together and rooting for you. It pains me to say this but if there ever was a beautiful death, it was your's. I turned my drink upside down in your honor lots of times this New Year's. I really found out how crazy the world can be. I know one thing though, your eternal soul is shredding these big swells, right below Neptune Street, where you belong.

    • EKG

      You have no idea what comfort this brings me, as someone who was intimately close to Theo for the last 3 years. Matt told me what happened once he got there with the other life guards, but I didn't know what happened before that, who he was with, whether or not he was afraid. I shake as I write this…your account of what happened was poignant and raw, and your tribute so appropriate..I have ruminated hours and hours over whether or not he suffered or was afraid. Thank you for putting my mind to rest, somewhat. I loved this man; I knew his heart and he knew mine. We shared our secrets, fears, joys, dreams, everything,and he was very very close to my three children. He will be missed by us forever, our Bear. Thank you for being with my friend at the end. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    • RDis

      Thanks buddy for all your efforts.. He was a good friend.. You don't know how much it helps to know how he passed in peace. In a wierd way I understand your feeling that if anyone was to pass he was not in pain but in peace.. Having a good cry…

      We will miss him; thank you again.

    • lori

      omg. thank you for sharing this and for trying so hard to help save ted. i haven't seen him in years but i'll never forget his smile. when i saw it on tv but didn't catch the name of the surfer who perished, i sadly knew it was him. such a tragic loss of a genuinely warm human being. thank you again for all of your efforts. i am sure you will be honored at the paddle-out if you can make it. sincerely, lori krupa

      • COUGAR

        omg Cheif Aug <3 have you spoken with his Momma, Ginny at all?? She wants to thank you for trying to save her son's life. I am still soo devastated, he was my darling Tiger. Tiger Smith. I just adored him, Theodorable. Theodore Kenneth Smith TKS It just breaks my heart. thank you and that girl, and everyone else, for your O'HANA.. c U and everyone that loved him xo much, at the NYE 2012 Surf Off Memorial.. xo hugs from my T Bear.

    • ekg

      I also want to say that although death is not a welcome guest, it is one that will visit us all one day. How it comes is not always peaceful. However, It WAS, in your words, a beautiful death; at the place he loved, doing the thing he loved MOST. He was not hooked up to machines or wasting away from disease. He was strong, beautiful, and happy. He is free and happy now , forever. ~ E.

    • Virginia Smith

      Thank you for this post. My son Teddy would never have caused such pain and grief to so many people had he been able to avoid it. I know it was terrible and very hard for you to write this post but my husband and I are grateful to know what happened. He thought he was in perfect health when he entered the surf that day. He was a good dude. So are you. I want you and your brother to find the time and money to get annual physicals no matter how well you think you are. All dah brahs out there. Do it for Ted.
      In the aloha spirit I thank you again. Ginny Smith

  4. tory mueller

    to Robin: He hears you! you will never be alone on this side, he will always be with you if you believe….I wish you the best Robin I'm so sorry for your loss…

  5. Judy Lewis

    R.I.P. Theodore Kenneth Smith. Your spirit brought light to many, you lived your dream and encouraged others to be themselves. You will be missed by all those who's lives you touched, whether you knew them or not. Be blessed. Enjoy surfing the waves of Heaven. ♥

  6. John

    Ted I can't believe you're gone, you always carried a stoke with you and brought light into the people around you. Always fun to surf with and such a gentleman in the water. I feel like we still need you down here, but I guess now you're needed somewhere else. You are a legend and you are timeless. Hopefully your ripping a better version of rincon up in heaven right now.

  7. lISA


  8. ekg

    Its been almost 8 months now, and I still look for you in the surf. I remember the night hanging out in the yard with the twinkle lights, beers on ice, pulling into my driveway after a long nights work and seeing your big red firetruck in there! I miss you Theo. We all do.
    I know you are around. I can feel you. I love you.

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