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Home » Featured Stories, Headlines, Vintage Skate History

Sims Contributions and Importance to Skateboarding

Submitted by admin on November 7, 2010 – 3:13 AM

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.

Tom Sims Santa Barbara Avacado Orchard

I have been skateboarding non-stop now for 50 years almost to the day, so I think a picture of my hand-made 1960 2×4 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

Sims Skateboard Magazine Ads Collage by Rick Tetz RFX

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.

Vintage Sims Team Paramount Skate Park 1970s

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 own ad.

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 print.

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 were collapsing.

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.

Sims Tom Jumps Porche Vintage skateboard Calstreets

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 skateboards on Mountain Drive in Montecito 1975

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 skating 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

Click Here For Part 2, Part 3 and the Photo Essay

Facebook Comments


  • Jack says:


    I’ve just read Your article on Tom Sims.
    It’s 2011 and finally we get to see SIMS Re-issue Decks. With the “Super-Ply” being my current target.
    If You can ask Tom Sims, is there any chance of the First BRAD BOWMAN signature Deck being Re-Issued?
    I was never a champion skateboarder. But this Deck was the Perfect Size and Shape as far as I am concerned.

  • Gregory says:

    All true!
    As a teen skater from 76′-79′, Sims rocked! Of course, we were young, rebels and were hungry for any new skate merchandise we could beg, borrow or steal…we knew that a Sims Taperkick still kicked ass! We were wanting Indy trucks and conical wheels by 79′ for sure, but rest assured Sims was an icon for us and we respected all innovations that Tom made to OUR sport from it’s infancy. I’m 49 years old and still have my Taperkick and a Superply made by Sims. Peace! Gregory

  • John Catlin says:

    Hey guys,
    I’ve been looking everywhere to try to replace my 1980 Sims Bert Lamar board. Some old women that run tag sales for a percentage, sold it when my dad hired them to clean out our house, prior to selling it. Didn’t know if there are reproductions of the Lamar or Andrecht boards. If so can you suggest where to look. Ebay and other sites have proved impossible. I recently ordered the original Sims flagship board, but won’t know til I get it, how flexible it is. Are they similar at all? Or are they completely different, other than the dimensions? I haven’t been able to get any questions answered by calling numerous skate shops around the country.
    Thanks so much!!!
    Sincerely John Catlin

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