No one can say for sure who created the first snowboard. But snurfers aside, many credit the creation of snowboards as we know them today, along with the culture of snowboarding to Tom Sims and his core brand Sims Snowboards. Represent.
Sims Snowboards is one of the oldest snowboard brands, launching around the same time as Burton in the late 70s. But unlike Burton, Sims Snowboards has been lost in the woods since their dominance of the market in the 80s and early 90s. A little hiatus to reconnect.
But now Sims is back! Back with a vengeance. Launching a whole revised line of snowboards, a fucking stacked pro team (best team out there?), and a guerilla style and team focused marketing approach we back hard! It’s all about the snowboarding, culture and community. Planting those original roots of snowboarding back into todays flooded online feed of crap.
With a triple decade legacy clout no other brand can boast in snowboarding, apart from rival Burton. We thought we would show some love to one of, if not the most core brand in snowboarding.
Rewinding back the clock to 1963, while in seventh grade in Haddonfield, New Jersey, a passionate young skateboarder, surfer and skier, Tom Sims built a “ski board” in his wood-works class.
It was a primitive-looking board, 34-by-8 inch wooden plank that was basically thicker fence panel made for snow, it didn’t work. Shortly after, Sims built an elongated version with an aluminium base and carpeted top sheet; this is the board Sims claims to be the first snowboard as we know them.
He wanted to replicate the feeling he got from skateboarding to the snow, which skiing definitely doesn’t fulfil.
“That’s what led me to build the first snowboard: not being able to skateboard on an icy street. So after that, it was just 12 months a year of boarding, whether it be skateboarding, snowboarding or surfing.”
But it wasn’t until the 1970s that the ball really started rolling for Sims. He moved back to California after some friends of his had told him they had a joint down in Montecito, just north of LA and he should come out.
So about a week after this news, Sims packed his droptop with surfboards, skateboards, skis and a pioneering snowboard. With too much equipment to put the roof up and it being mid-winter, Tom, clad in a ski jacket and goggles, set out for the west coast.
Six years later, Tom Sims was the World Skateboard Champion, and he launched his own company, “Sims Skateboards,” while continuing to make ‘ski boards’ on the side.
In ’77, Sims and his employee, Chuck Barfoot, teamed up with Bob Weber to create the Flying Yellow Banana Ski Board, a promising prototype of what was to come. It consisted of a wooden Sims skate deck on top of a bright yellow plastic shell. Using a string of rubber along the Sims skate deck to allow the rider to ride their preference, regs or goofy.
This type of forward-thinking propelled Sims Snowboards as the go-to brand after its inception in the 80s and its rise to top dog in the early 90s.
The board company is often credited as the first to design boards with metal edges, allowing for a smoother and stable ride, the first to create boards specifically for women that were lighter and narrower, and the first to design and produce bindings with a high-back system, adding response.
All of which is now the industry standard these days. Could you imagine someone trying to sell you a setup with no metal edge and no high backs? You’d tell them to fucking kick rocks!
Throughout these years, it’s not like Sims is sitting behind a desk looking at spreadsheets of sales and brand endeavours. He was out there, ripping for the culture and for the straight-up joy of it.
“Tom Sims, he brought the surf influence and skating, but when I look back from what I do know of him, Sims was about the lifestyle. And that’s what Tom brought to the sport, was a culture.” – Mike Basich.
He held command over early events like the US Open Snowboarding Championships and King of the Hill. Hell, he was even Rodger Moore’s stunt double for the snowboard scene in James Bond: A View to a Kill. How many board company owners can say that?… One, Tom Sims.
But it’s this ‘culture’ that deserves extra mention. Tom Sims and Sims Snowboards back in the day embodied so much of the culture that snowboarders still try to claim true to this day. Call it a core score or whatever; Sims had it.
“He was the catalyst for having halfpipe in snowboard competitions, he actually got freestyle competitions off the ground, and that was invaluable.” – Pat Bridges.
Would there be any halfpipe competitions without Tom Sims? Probably, but still, it does not change the fact that he introduced halfpipe and freestyle events at the first World Championships at Soda Springs, Cali, in ’83. Sims was a critical aspect of the development of the halfpipe and even rode the first halfpipe at the Tahoe City landfill.
Halfpipe: From the city dump to the X Games, where’s that 30 for 30 ESPN?
Tom Sims brought his aggressive skateboarding style and helped introduce freestyle snowboarding, using natural and man-made hits on the hill. He knew that snowboarders needed snowboarder inspired competitions, not some shitty mogul course or flying through gates in some moose knuckle inducing lycra.
Oh, and in 1984 he co-founded the Mount Baker Legendary Banked Slalom… so yeah, pretty bloody stacked resume.
The development of building halfpipes and freestyle courses came to Sims the same way his board development came; through the Sims Snowboard team.
Some of the heaviest of heavyweight pros have been a part of the Sims team over the last 3 decades, including Craig Kelly, Terry Kidwell (who was one of the four lads who helped build that first pipe in the Tahoe landfill), Jeff Fulton, Noah Salasnek, Shaun Palmer and so many more. But to Sims, a team was not simply a marketing tool to sell boards; they were a fundamental cog in how Sims Snowboards were being constructed and produced.
“The whole team thing was a way for me to get input and feedback on ideas I had on product. And they were the ultimate testers because they were so rough on the equipment and were so demanding of it that it was a kinda perfect marriage for research and development to just move it at lightning pace.”
Fast forward to today, and Sims Snowboards, over the last 2 years, has built their team up to be one of the strongest crews out right now. Tadashi Fuse, Scott Blum, Shuhei Sato, Cody Warble, Nik Baden and in typical core fashion, the OG’s are returning to the team; John Jackson and Keegan Valaika!
“One reason I signed again with Sims is the people behind it today. The whole team is such a rad squad. It feels like the soul of snowboarding, like an older environment where they still care. And we’re not pressured to do anything fake or anything stupid.” – John Jackson.
This is a less than subtle ‘Oi! We’re back!’ and as mentioned at the start of the article, Sims has been dropping some edits for us to froth over in the form of Promo One through Promo Four.
But of course, you know a brand is really back by looking at the board range, and it’s grown from the 3 board range they had only a few years ago to 14 boards that make up this years collection. Covering backcountry, freestyle and park (Also a split board for the first time in the range).
There is something cathartic about the thought of clicking in on a Sims board for some pinning and grinning. Snowboarding is a very young sport in the grand scheme, so it’s important to pay homage to the real originators of our craft, the true OG’s.
Remembering the dudes who paved the way from being kicked off uppity hills in the 70s and 80s, so we can have freedom of choice when it comes to where we want to shred. Except for the three resorts in the States who still have a snowboard ban, we won’t name names, but fuck them.
We all found snowboarding one way or another. Still, we keep tracking out to a mountain like a frozen pilgrimage out of one primary truth, we are tied to the fun of snowboarding. The same can be said for Tom Sims and Sims Snowboards; it always boiled down to remaining true to yourself and the culture and having fun with it.
“In my opinion, snowboarding is inherently more fun,” he says. “It’s hard to explain, but when you do a snowboard turn and can drag your hand in the snow and pretend you’re on a 20-foot wave, it just seems more fun than planting a ski pole and making a turn.”
For more info hit up https://www.simscollective.com/ and get into your local snowboard shop to get your feet onto one this winter!