Obituary: Tom Sims, snowboarder and board inventor
Born: 6 December, 1950, in Los Angeles. Died: 12 September, 2012, in Santa Barbara, California, aged 61.
Tom Sims, who was credited with inventing one of the earliest snowboards and, as a world-champion competitor and manufacturer, with helping to further snowboarding’s widespread acceptance in the sporting world, died at a hospital near his home in Santa Barbara, California. He was 61.
The cause was complications following cardiac arrest, his sister, Margie Sims Klinger, said.
Sims was an avid skateboarder in 1963 when he built a crude “ski board” in his woodwork class in Haddonfield, New Jersey, so he could continue to ride during the winter.
“That’s what led me to build the first snowboard: not being able to skateboard on an icy street,” Sims said in a video posted on the magazine Transworld Skateboarding’s website.
“So after that, it was just 12 months a year of boarding, whether it be skateboarding, snowboarding or surfing.”
His boyhood invention did not work very well, but it inspired him to continue to refine the design. At the same time, he began building a career as a designer of skateboards.
In the mid-1970s, when Sims was riding boards he had made in professional competitions, he founded Sims Skateboards in Whittier, California, to manufacture and market them. Soon the company was sponsoring skateboarding luminaries like Christian Hosoi and Craig Kelly and expanding to manufacture snowboards as well.
By the 1980s, many ski resorts still looked at snowboarding as a fad, if they allowed it at all. The sport was nevertheless growing, and riders had started organising competitions. Most of the early contests involved slalom races, as in alpine skiing. Sims brought his aggressive skateboarding style to the sport and helped introduce freestyle snowboarding, using natural and artificial obstacles on the hill to perform tricks.
“He was the catalyst for having half-pipe in snowboard competitions,” Pat Bridges, the editor of America’s Snowboarder magazine, said in an online tribute, referring to the familiar U-shaped obstacle. “He actually got freestyle competitions off the ground, and that was invaluable.”
Sims Snowboards broke new ground in the industry. The company is often credited as the first to design boards with metal edges, making for a smoother and more stable ride; the first to design boards for women, making them lighter, shorter and narrower to accommodate smaller boots; and one of the first to design and manufacture high-backed snowboard bindings, which allow for more responsive manoeuvres.
An improved version of that bindings design is used by nearly all snowboarders today.
Sims became a world champion snowboarder in 1983. He was also Roger Moore’s stunt double during a snowboard sequence in the 1985 James Bond film A View to a Kill.
Snowboarders are now commonplace at nearly all ski resorts, and snowboarding made its debut as a Winter Olympic sport in Nagano, Japan, in 1998.
Thomas Paul Sims was born in Los Angeles in 1950. His family moved to America’s East Coast when he was two years old. He first saw children skateboarding on a family trip to Los Angeles in 1960 and was immediately smitten.
In addition to his sister, Sims is survived by his wife, Hilary; two sons, Thomas Jr and Shane; a daughter, Sarah M Sims; and two stepdaughters, Alexa and Kylie Wagner.
A slightly refined version of Sims’ humble school “ski board” now resides at the Colorado Ski and Snowboard Museum in Vail.
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