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R.I.P., Tom Sims (1950-2012)


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Really hated to hear this news as Tom Sims has long been one of my favorite skaters as well as a huge innovator in the world of skateboarding. Just a few years ago when I started getting back into skateboarding I had my old Sims board re-outfitted with new trucks and wheels. It's a board I've had since I was just a little kid but I still ride it to this day.

Tom Sims, Skate and Snowboard Pioneer Dies


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You couldn't escape the name and influence of Tom Sims growing up in Southern California in the 1970s. Although I never owned a Sims skateboard, I did ride Sims snowboards after first starting out with a Burton snowboard.

A pioneer and legend. R.I.P. Tom Sims.

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I'm not sure if you got to read the article I posted from ESPN but it also includes a well done tribute to Tom Sims that's well worth the ten minutes or so it takes to watch (looks like there's also a part two but I'm not sure where to find that). I was never aware of just how much of a role he played in the invention of snowboards.

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Actually it was the ESPN article that brought me here last night. I was checking the scores thru my ESPN app and that's when I noticed the Tom Sims obituary.

I came here to post the news and saw that you had already done so...that's why my post above says 'Edited'; I had to remove the ESPN link after I figured out that you had already posted the same link in a more graphically appealing fashion.

I bought my first snowboard in 1982. I had been seeing ads for snowboards for years in the surfing and skateboarding magazines I read, but being an Orange County beach kid growing up, I never had the opportunity to learn how to ski, let alone snowboard.

Then, in the first year and a half of my Army stint, I was stationed at Ft. Hood, TX...no skiing there!

But when I got the word I would be finishing my four years in the Army in Nürnberg, Germany, my initial dismay at not getting my first chice of being stationed in Hawaii turned to elation as I realized that Nürnberg's proximity to the Alps would provide me with the opportunity to learn to ski and snowboard.

About a month before I left Ft. Hood for Germany(I had a week's leave at home first), I placed an order for a Jake Burton snowboard. It was old school, with foot bindings and three metal 'fins' underneath, just like a surfboard with three fins(which were all the rage back then). I think that may have been part of the reason I chose the Burton board over the Sims; it looked like a surfboard for snow, so there was an element of familiarity about it.

My board safely arrived from Vermont in time for my trip to Germany, I must have looked crazy to the Brits and Germans as I first went through Heathrow and then Frankfurt en route to Nürnberg with my surfboard, skateboard and snowboard as part of my luggage.

Most of my army compatriots didn't know what to make of me, at first...I was the only Southern California kid in my unit. Most of the guys were from places like Mead, PA or Flint, MI or Surprise, NY or Tulsa, OK.

Army duties being what they are, it wasn't until the winter of 1983 that I got to put my snowboard to use. The Army had put together this 10 day package tour for $150 per person. That would include daily ski lessons and equipment rentals, unlimited lift usage, room and meals...all down at beautiful Garmisch-Partenkirchen. It was a no-brainer! I would finally learn to ski and then get to break out my snowboard. Frankly I was surprised more GI's didn't take advantage of the offer.

All told there were probably around 20 guys and girls on the trip. What a great 10 days that was! What a great surprise, too, to get down there and find that the two girls in charge of giving us our ski gear were UCLA students! :o

Anyway, back to the point...

The routine was you'd get up in the morning and after breakfast, you'd get your skis, poles, boots, etc. and go to your lesson(there were three lesson groups for beginner, intermediate, and advance...I was beginner, natch) and that would last until noon. Then the rest of the day was yours to ski or do whatever you want.

I spent the first few days just skiing...to my surprise, this beach bum took to skiing like a duck to water. I started wishing I had made the effort to learn to ski earlier. When I felt I was becomming proficient enough...graduating from snow-plow turns to parallel turns...I decided it was time to break out the snowboard.

Haha! What a comedy that was. Being a surfer and skateboarder, I thought it would be no sweat, a piece of cake. What I wasn't prepared for was 1) how difficult it would be using the T-bar lifts with my snowboard; and 2) how clumsily and sluggish my board felt in the snow.

It was definitely a trial-and-error process and I must have provided much mirth for my fellow skiers. It didn't help that I was the ONLY one with a snowboard out there and I was looked upon as an alien. The climate for snowboarding was far different then than it is now...there were no special runs designed for snowboarders, no halfpipes or rails to grind.

There were some times I got so frustrated with the T-bar, I just said 'fuck it' and climbed up to the top of the run. But eventually, as I got used to what the board could and couldn't do(I thought I would immediately be pulling off aerials), I began to enjoy myself more and more.

I still found myself spending more time skiing than snowboarding on the trip.

Oh, and as an added bonus, on a day trip to visit the Schloss Neuschwanstein(inspiration for the Castle at Disneyland), I discovered a hang-gliding school nearby and made arrangements to take lessons. So while in Germany I learned to ski, snowboard and hang glide...that's one reason Deutschland will always have a piece of my heart.

After the 10-day vacation was over, I took my Burton snowboard out for a few more times in the snow. But something kept nagging me that I wasn't getting optimum performance. One day looking through the latest Surfer magazine, I noticed that the Sims boards in the ads didn't have metal rods or 'fins' underneath. They were sleek and smooth with a slightly concave surface.

In other words, instead of looking like a surfboard, it looked more like a ski...just wider. My limited grasp of physics told me this might make all the difference in the world. I mailed out an order that very day.

By the time I got my Sims board, spring was already in bloom and I would have to wait until later in the year before trying it out. But when I finally did, I could immediately feel a difference in the way the Sims board handled compared to the Burton...the way it took to the snow was like night and day.

Of course, I think it was within a year that I noticed that all the other snowboard manufacturers, Burton included, started phasing out the 'fins' and copying the Sims style.

I started seeing a few more snowboarders pop up at the various European ski resorts I visited, too. Not a lot, mind you, but enough to have fun with and feel like you were part of some rebel group. When my Army hitch was finally over and I returned to Southern California, the difference was striking...there was a large amount of snowboarders in the LA ski resorts. By the late-80s I would estimate Big Bear and Mountain High would be split 50/50 between skiers and snowboarders.

There was some beefing and resentment from skiers, but the smart ski resorts realized that for the sake of their financial future, they had better start recognizing the snowboarders and develop special runs for them.

It wouldn't be long before you started having Winter X games and snowboarding in the Olympics.

That's part of the legacy of Tom Sims.

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Thanks for the added insight. I've always wanted to try snowboarding but never have. I know Stacy Peralta's a very busy man these days what with his current Bones Brigade documentary and all but I'd love to see him tackle the life of Tom Sims on film next. I know that he and Tom were very close. So close in fact, that such a project may prove too difficult for him to do from an emotional standpoint. On the other hand, I really can't think of anyone else that would be better suited to do it.

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