Remembering Tom Sims


When skate and snowboard pioneer Tom Sims died on September 12 from cardiac arrest, the sideways community was instantly galvanized in loss. We gathered up some of the snowboard community's memories of the man, from the earliest competitors to mid-career business associates and friends.

None of us would be here today reading about snowboarding on ESPN.com or watching it on television if it weren't for your influence, Tom. Know that.

Fran Richards, 49 ~ San Diego, Calif. ~ Early Sims flow rider

I wrote to Tom when I was in high school to thank him for making 'insane' skateboards and 'intense' snowboards. I was shocked when he wrote me back a personal note within a few weeks thanking me for helping to support him and our sports.

A few years later I actually met Tom on the hill in Boulder. He was in town selling his Sims 1500 snowboards -- new and now with p-tex, but not yet with edges. He was also helping Richard Christensen to build the first Colorado contests. Tom's stoke was infectious and his confidence was supreme and, at that time, his swallowtail, rocker-concave 'ski-board' designs were well ahead of the design and performance curve.

I was an early 'flow' snow team rider for Sims in 1983. He inspired me to fearlessly follow my love of the sport by getting out there and riding and spreading the stoke -- by selling snowboards and getting the contest scene together. Tom was all about fun and figuring out how to make more advanced stuff that created even more fun. He was much more stoked on the sport than the business per se. It was his naive yet pioneering spirit that made us fired up to get out and ride and change the world...

I'll miss you Tom, and I will always thank you for your humble stoke and desire to share snowboarding and skateboarding with me, and ultimately the rest of the world.

Bud Fawcett, 58 ~ Portland, Ore. ~ Legendary lensman and Sims Skateboards employee in the '70s

I was first offered a job by Tom in 1978 as production manager for Sims Skateboards. I even suggested that snowboarding had no future in 1979 when he was shifting his focus away from skateboards to snowboards.

Lucky for us that he didn't listen to my opinion... Tom is the original action sports hero and a legendary character to all that knew him.

Al Clark, 38 ~ Revelstoke, Canada ~ Sims pro team 1989-2000

I had the privilege of riding for Sims Snowboards for 11 years or so and, in that time ... Tom supported and encouraged my goals as if they were his own -- and did the same for every member of the Sims team.

Tom was a man of his word, lifestyle, and beliefs. Not too many individuals still passionately preserve the stoke and energy that Tom did their whole lifespan for snowboarding and skateboarding.

Tom was like family, a team captain, and an inspiration for all who believe you must pass up your passion for money or respect. He taught me many values I will always uphold: Passion, hard work, respect -- and comedy. Peace Tom. And thank you.

Trevor Graves, 46 ~ Portland, Ore. ~ Founder, Nemo Design

Tom had a clear vision of what and where snowboarding was going. Many will write about his skills as a skater and snowboarder. Others will write about his ability to engineer the equipment. I see Tom's contribution to snowboarding as an entrepreneur.

As an enterprising person he had the strength and courage to muscle through high-risk and criticism to pioneer the fledgling industry that became snowboarding. The battles between he and Jake Burton are legendary. That friction was necessary to spark fire into the sport.

Tom Sims introduced me to ... Tom Hsieh of "Absolutely Radical" Magazine [who] made me the East Coast correspondent for the mag. ... Before I knew it, I was a photo journalist sharing the excitement of snowboarding with the world. The old cliche goes: it's not what you know, it's who you know. I feel blessed to have known Tom Sims. RIP.

Alex Warburton, 46 ~ Squamish, Canada ~ Principal, The Design Aggregate; former pro rider

While a legend even early on, Tom was part of a small enough community that if you were one of a handful of pros in existence, you knew him. So by that measure, I was lucky enough to know him. Sims never questioned [that] the core of snowboarding was freestyle and its roots were skate and surf.

Even when the rest of the industry grasped at every dorky straw and tangent out there in an effort to find an identity, Sims never questioned it. Kidwell, Kimmel, Kelly, Palmer, Salasnek... Sims made us cooler than we were ready for, or probably deserved.

Bryan Iguchi, 39 ~ Jackson Hole, Wyo. ~ Pro rider/fan

Tom is the greatest contributor in the evolution of board-sports. As a surfer, skater and snowboarder, he created and defined the lifestyle of what snowboarding has become by living and breathing it. I probably wouldn't have started snowboarding without Tom's influence on the sport and his vision of progression.

Trevar Cushing, 30 ~ Pittsburgh, Penn. ~ Creator of Powder & Rails video series

I wanted to do the episode on Tom because he was an original in skateboarding and snowboarding. He certainly demonstrated that he was a true believer early on. [Laughs] I think he started making his own boards out of pure necessity. He needed stuff to ride! He didn't have anywhere to buy them ...

When he tried to make it a business, banks thought it was a joke! They just thought [snowboarding] was a passing fad, like anything else. But he just stuck to it, kept doing it. Then, when I went to interview him, like, thirty-some years later, he has his own ranch up in Santa Barbara, with famous actors [as neighbors]. The bank guy probably thought he was some surf bum but he ended up doing better than the guy at the bank did!

Ken Achenbach, 48 ~ Whistler, Canada ~ owner, Camp of Champions and friend/competitor of Tom's

How do you sum up in a few words someone that was a friend and the first person to make great boards -- boards that inspired me to sell my soul to snowboarding and start the first exclusive snowboard store in the world? ... All snowboarding is when you strip it down to its core is good friends, good boards, good times and stoke/juice. That was Tom and that is his legacy: Pure Juice.

Dano Pendygrasse, 42 ~ Vancouver, Canada ~ Photographer; Sims Team rider 1989-1991

I was sponsored by Sims Snowboards in the late 80s and early 90s and met Tom during those years. He was such a legendary character that I was super stoked to meet him and find out how down-to-earth he was. He was eager to know who I was and listened to my story, just a keen little grom from Canada.

When I shifted to photography, Sims became one of my first clients and I was lucky enough to spend time shooting a pretty amazing era of the team. At Mt. Bachelor in 1992 I even managed to snap a shot of the man himself backside slashing a crappy bank. It's not a great photo but I never trashed it because it was the only photo I had of Tom Sims snowboarding.

I feel like Tom is the part of snowboarding that we lost when we sold our soul, and he never really fit into corporate snowboarding. He was the underdog and the evangelist and anyone who slides sideways owes him an un-payable debt.