Cause of surfer’s death still unknown

Ryan Smithy Smith, left on the Expresso Morning show during the Springboks' visit to Cape Town last year. Picture: Facebook

Police are still awaiting the results of the autopsy for surfboard shaper and former Western Province surfer Ryan “Smithy” Smith, 47, more than a month after he was found dead in his Capri home.

Mr Smith was the owner of Smithy Surfboards and founder of the non-profit organisation, The African Surfriders Foundation.

His body was found on Saturday January 11 after a neighbour had alerted police.

It was suspected that he had been stabbed to death but at the time police said there was no evidence to suggest that he had been murdered (“Shock over Capri death,” Echo, January 20).

According to a Facebook post by Mr Smith’s brother, Donovan, Mr Smith had arrived home on Friday night January 10 at 8.30pm without his motorbike and a neighbour had let him into the complex.

Noticing blood on Mr Smith, the neighbour had asked him if he was okay, and he had said he was. The neighbour had checked on him again later that evening and again he had said he was fine. However, when he had not been seen on Saturday or could not be reached by phone, the police had been called.

Fish Hoek police spokesman Warrant Officer Peter Middelton said an inquest docket had been opened and the case was still being investigated although no foul play was suspected. The case, he said, would remain open until the autopsy results had been finalised.

Warrant Officer Middelton could not say how much longer the results would take.

Mr Smith’s mom, Diane, said she was still in shock and declined an interview with the Echo.

Donovan, who has since returned to the UK, said Mr Smith had started working for himself at school, designing, selling and promoting his own range of handmade surfboards. He had ventured into clothing and had often been ahead of the curve in the latest trends. “I remember way back in 1987 Ryan was snapped by an Argus photographer, while out and about in central Cape Town in leopard-printed board shorts. I ridiculed him for wearing them. I mean what was this all about? A hardcore surfer daring to buck the norm,” Donovan said.

However, 18 months later, the pattern was the most popular item of clothing in his range and Mr Smith went on to win the Fair Lady Liberty Life Business Start-Up Award.

He spent time in Australia developing a range of clothing there, before returning to Cape Town, where he again started up his surfboard-shaping business.

He went on to promote sport as a vessel for peace and hope by shaping a board for the Rugby World Cup winning team in 1995 and again designing another one for the most recent champions in 2019.

“As an outsider, Ryan was a surfer, shaper, environmentalist and quirky figure to know. However, as a young South African entrepreneur, Ryan often found himself battling changing circumstances, and, at times, found these pressures challenging,” Donovan said.

Donovan said he had followed news and stories about his brother on social media and through family updates, and “knowing how Ryan could spin a yarn”, he continued to be sceptically amazed at what he posted.

“Yet only through his recent death have I come to understand how much he truly achieved in his sponsored swims, ocean clean-up projects and charitable work for the African Surfriders Foundation. To me, as an insider, he was a charismatic, quirky, driven individual that made an impact on whomever he came into contact with,” Donovan said.

The African Surfriders Foundation helps the communities of Masiphumelele and Ocean View, it runs awareness campaigns and beach clean-ups and teaches underprivileged children to swim.

“He was a true trailblazer for awareness of change and the impact of litter in our oceans,” Donovan said.