My conversation with Tom Sims began with me not knowing much
about Tom Sims or his role in skateboarding during the 1970s. Which is a
bit like not knowing about the effect Shaun Tomson or O’Neill Wetsuits
had on surfing in the 1970s. I didn’t know much about Sims and so our
conversation became a learning experience - as this entire book was.
As we began to correspond, the first email from Tom came in January of 2010, and went like this:
Ben, I am very impressed with ALL your ideas and direction for the
book in a big way! As I think about how a T.SIMS interview should go, I
have the following thoughts:
Tom Sims, photographed on his organic avocado ranch along the Santa Barbara coast in June of 2009 Surrounded by just a fraction of his 40 years of skateboard innovations and archives.
I have been skateboarding non-stop now for 50 years almost to the
day, so I think a picture of my hand-made 1960 2x4 board and some
highlights along the fifty year trail would be very cool, and incredibly
interesting in your book. The most important and influential SIMS TEAM
riders should be covered at least to some extent, as well as a few
colorful stories which are way too many for your book - but with your
help, we could cherry pick.
The Original Hand Made 1960's era 2 x 4 Skateboard - Tom Sims
My back cover ads in Thrasher and Transworld, etc. that went
on for many years are a window into the history and influence of SIMS on
the sport during the 70’s, and some of those could be woven into the
story as a visual time capsule too.
The very fact that almost the entire Dogtown Team - including Jay
Adams - joined the SIMS TEAM by the end of 1975 says a lot about HOW
COOL SIMS WAS in that era. Bob Biniak, Wentzle Ruml IV, Paul
Constantineau, Arthur Lake, Jim Muir, Jay Adams, (all personal friends)
and others all called me at my Santa Barbara studio to ask me if they
could be on the SIMS TEAM.
Some of the other BIGGEST names of the 70's and 80's were also on the
SIMS TEAM including Bert Lamar!, Steve Rocco!, Pierre Andre!, Dave
Swift!, Dave Andrecht!, Brad Bowman!, Todd Swank, Chris Strople, Tom
“Walley” Inouye, Kevin Staab, George Orton, Doug DeMontmorency, Mike
Folmer, Lonnie Toft, Ed Economy, and the list goes on and on, with some
of the most dominate names of that skateboarding era.
Please remember these important pieces of confidential information
as you do your research: 1.) Tony Hawk rode Sims Skateboards and wheels
before being recruited to Powell by Stacy Peralta days before I met
Tony. 2.) Industry people like Rich Novak have spent a 'LIFE TIME'
trying to minimize SIMS contributions and importance to the sport of
skateboarding and snowboarding, because it WAS and STILL IS financially
beneficial to his Santa Cruz Enterprise....... I will fill you in on the
phone how George Powell 'used me' to ENTER the 'industry' as well as
other tidbits of FACTUAL history if you are willing to accept the actual
things that went down, instead of the BS that has been promulgated over
the years by skateboard profiteers. Respectfully, Tom.
The Sims Skateboards team at Paramount Skate Park, circa 1970's. Tom couldn’t name them all after all these years, but said Tom Inouye is the guy not in uniform – far right. Photo courtesy Tom Sims.
So that was a start, and then I got more interested when I read something by Rich Novak from Built to Grind:
“In 1978, SkateBoarder Magazine was the leading trade publication;
skaters who wanted coverage in it had to pray to the publisher and then
bribe the editor. With a gram of Peruvian marching dust and a free
surfboard, you might get your picture on the cover. Or, if you were a
certain Santa Barbara company at the time, you would wait until
everybody else had turned in their SkateBoarder ads, visit the mag
personally to check out the competing merchandise, and then produce your
The magazine officially denied it could happen, just as I watched the
Wonder Boy from Santa Barbara put his back-cover ad together at the
storyboard. It was all BS; they were so lame that they even blackballed
Tony Alva and Steve Olson from the magazine for being ‘too punk.’ I’m
sure they felt pretty stupid when Alva and Olson won their
f%&@(& skater poll shortly thereafter.”
In my naiveté, I assumed George Powell was Novak’s “wonder boy from
Santa Barbara.” But when I found out Novak was referring to Tom Sims, I
figured that Sims must be a player if Novak was going after him in
Tom Sims sensed my naiveté, and his second email missive on May 28, 2010 was a bit angrier:
Ben, Just wanted to give you what I will call a 'reality check', and
some history about SIMS SKATEBOARDS in the 70's. SIMS PURE JUICE WHEELS
and DECKS were number one in more ways than one. Stacy Peralta rode SIMS
wheels for no compensation, as well as most top skateboarders in the
world back then. SIMS SKATEBOARD EQUIPMENT and RIDERS graced the cover
to the back cover of SkateBoarder Magazine, TWS, and Thrasher Magazine
endless times, and were without question the most sought after wheels in
the world from the mid to late 70's. The Sims photographs in
SkateBoarder Magazine were so plentiful, that George Powell would
complain to Warren Bolster, the editor.
SIMS precision German Bearings were legendary, and all this was
before George Powell became a real big player in the early 80's, with
his Swiss precision bearings. If you thumb through any of the skate
magazines from that era it is SIMS RIDERS everywhere. George Powell
would phone SkateBoarder magazine to complain about all the SIMS
exposure. I was World Skateboard Champion in 1975, and the SIMS TEAM
virtually dominated the competitions. SIMS maintained the prestigious
back covers of SkateBoarder, Transworld and Thrasher (Novak owned)
during this era.
Making SIMS a mere footnote in the 70's is unfathomably INACCURATE
and is exactly what George Powell and Rich Novak would love to see,
since they have been spinning the history of skateboarding from their
own economic and historical perspectives for decades with distortions
and self -serving inaccurate information.
Yes, after Vision became the SIMS Skateboard licensee in the early
80's, (so I could focus on the unknown sport of snowboarding which I had
created in 1963), SIMS SKATEBOARDS eventually fell from the number one
spot in the marketplace, as Powell gained market share and the industry
suffered an economic downturn. Many of the most IMPORTANT names in the
skateboard world came from the 70's SIMS TEAM. SIMS rider Steve Rocco!
left SIMS after Visions took over to form World Industries, Plan B, and
Big Brother - quickly becoming the largest skateboard company in the
world. Steve Rocco and also Novak dissed hard on Powell and soon they
Pierre Andre! left SIMS after Vision to form Etnies. SIMS TEAM RIDERS
Kevin Staab! and Todd Swank! and Dave Swift! went on to become great
industry leaders, Brad Bowman!, Bert Lamar!, David Andrecht!, Doug
DeMontmorency!, Chris Strople!, Wally Inouye!, Steve Monahan, Brad
Strandlund, Bob Biniak! (bless his soul), Wentzle Ruml IV, Paul
Constantineau, George Orton, Arthur Lake, Jim Muir, Waldo Autry, Ed
Economy, Marc Hollander, Frank Blood, Lonnie Toft, Mike Folmer and the
whole SIMS EAST team based in Florida.
Tom Sims jumping a Porsche, circa 1975 from the MacGillivray-Freeman film Five Summer Stories. Image courtesy Tom Sims.
The list goes on with many more VERY important skateboarders from the
70's. I went on the Merv Griffin Show as World Champion to promote
skateboarding in 1976. I jumped over a Porsche while riding my
skateboard in the movie Five Summer Stories by MacGillivray Freeman
Films. I was in the big screen movie 'Skateboard' and did several other
skateboarding films. I was in the Guinness World
Tom Sims shaping boards on Mountain Drive in Montecito, circa 1975. Photo courtesy Tom Sims.
Records book in 1976. I did the Movie Freewheelin with Stacy Peralta,
I hired Stacy to do a SIMS movie long before he was the ICON he is.
Tony Hawk rode SIMS before Stacy scooped him up. SIMS WAS the 70's, and I
am saddened by reading your draft. Even George Powell's recollection of
the Pacific Palisades encounter is not accurate. He put my signature on
the Quicksilver deck as a way to get into the skateboard market, and
then never paid me a royalty or thanked me once he got some market share
to go it alone. SIMS WAS the center of the skateboard universe from
1975 to 1979 and that is not just my observation, but reality.
One of the only real threats to SIMS other than Logan Earth Ski
during that time frame came from Dogtown and Alva. After Jim Muir left
SIMS to start making Dogtown trademark skateboards he became a major
player in the industry.
With all due respect, I knew once I read that you were going up to
see Novak, that this would happen. It is called “Novak Skateboard Spin
101,” and he does it really really well, and very convincingly when
mocking SIMS and elevating Santa Cruz and Road Riders to mythical
levels. I guess the victor gets to write the history books after all,
just as some famous person once said: Novak always gets the last laugh!
(That is not my quote). He is a tough cookie, just like the time he
recruited Shaw Kaake - my head of engineering for snowboards - or the
time he bought thousands of SIMS German Precision bearings behind my
back - selling them to MY customers. Or the time he took one of my top
snowboard team riders Chris Roach simultaneously stealing my snowboard
binding design so he could launch Santa Cruz snowboards.
I never saw George Powell or Rich Novak actually ride a
skateboard, these guys were businessmen, not skateboarders, so I got
taken for a ride more than once.
ORIGINAL SIMS-Tom Sims Explains His Obsession With Skateboarding Greenmount Rd Fall 1964
Tom Sims as a stoked grom, circa 1964/65, when he was already an outlaw, having been arrested for skateboarding the streets of South Jersey. Just one way he was ahead of his time. Photo courtesy Tom Sims.