CALIFORNIA'S ONLY SPORTSMAN'S NEWS SINCE 1953

Feature Article: Bob Slamal Obit

OBITUARY: Bob Slamal, owner of Ski and Sport stores

BY JIM MATTHEWS/Special to Western Outdoor NewsPublished: Jun 23, 2015

Bob Slamal, the owner of the Ski and Sport outdoor and marine stores in Riverside and San Bernardino, died unexpectedly on June 10 at his home. Slamal was one the last of the Hemingway sportsmen who pursued all of the outdoor sports with skill and passion, from fishing and hunting to ski racing to off-road motorcycles to golf. Through his retail businesses and his love of outdoor sports he was well-known throughout the Southern California sporting community. Slamal was 68.

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BOB SLAMAL, died unexpectedly on June 10 at his home. Here. He graces the cover of a Western Outdoors magazine.

Ski and Sport had been in business in the Inland Empire since 1946, when Bob’s dad, Tom Slamal partnered up with Overton Pratt (also well-known in the Inlands Empire sporting goods business) to open a broad-based sporting goods store in San Bernardino. After buying out Pratt, the Slamals eventually open both sporting goods and marine/boating stores in both cities until the last store closed in 2009.


Ski and Sport was a place where you could go get a baseball bat for your Little Leaguer, hiking boots for a trek up San Gorgonio, spinners for a trout fishing adventure at Big Bear Lake, a top-end conventional reel for a long-range fishing trip out of San Diego, skis for a trip to Snow Summit, or waterfowl ammunition and shotguns for a goose hunt at the Salton Sea. It had everything sporting.


When the Riverside store closed in 2009, the last of the Ski and Sport stores still open, Slamal said the Ski and Sport stores were always on the leading edge of the latest outdoor trends, mostly was because he and his father were avid participants. The San Bernardino store carried camping trailers and slide-on campers, fishing boats and motors, and backpacking equipment before they were trendy — but not before both Slamals and their staff were using them and knew their advantages. Their stores were carrying fly-fishing and fly-tying gear decades before “A River Runs Through It” exploded the popularity of that sport. Waterfowl hunters heading to the Imperial Valley or Colorado River would detour a few miles because they knew Slamal’s store carried a wide selection of ammunition and decoys. The store was also one of the best saltwater fishing tackle shops in Southern California — in spite of being sixty miles from the ocean.


The San Bernardino store carried Mercury motors for anglers from its initial opening in 1946. When the marine store was sold 1991, Ski and Sport was the oldest continuous Mercury dealer in the country.


“Dad had a real feel for being ahead of the curve,” said Slamal of his father when Tom died in 2010. It was a tradition Bob carried on long after his father had retired and turned the business over to Bob.


When skateboards first came on the scene, Riverside Ski and Sport began stocking a wide selection and became a kid hangout. As these kids matured, another trend kicked off. For the last five years it was open, Riverside Ski and Sport had been the largest, non-chain, snowboarding shop in California.


All of the stores always had something else that you can’t find very many places today: a place to sit down and just visit.


“You want people in the store — you don’t want to chase them away. And we always had couches,” said Slamal when the Riverside store closed six years ago.


Bob Slamal was born September 29, 1946 in San Bernardino and graduated from Eisenhower High School in Rialto and San Diego State University. He played baseball throughout school and was a ski racer as a young man. He and his wife Leslie remained avid skiers, and Slamal was a fanatical upland bird and waterfowl hunter who always had yellow Labradors under foot. He was a top end skeet shooter (like his father) when he was younger, and he had been shooting sporting clays in recent years.


Slamal, however, was probably best known as an extraordinary fisherman, specializing in fly-fishing, but equally at home behind a spinning rod or baitcaster or jig stick. He’d fished everywhere in the West, fresh and saltwater, and traveled to spots around the world, especially New Zealand, to catch trout. He competed in the famous One Fly competition in Jackson Hole, Wyo., which his team won, but Slamal set an individual one-day record in this event that no one has come close to beating. After the Riverside store closed, Slamal ramped up his guiding service, teaching anglers how to fly-fish and catch stripers at Lake Skinner and Diamond Valley locally, and on the Green River in Wyoming right up until his death. The “white fly” trolling tactic so popular today on local striper lakes traces directly back to Bob Slamal who had pioneered its use with fly tackle and taught many anglers how it could adapt over to conventional trolling gear. When the Riverside store closed, Slamal said he was annually selling 400 dozen of what he jokingly called “Bob’s White Fly,” a relatively simple marabou streamer of Bob’s design that he had custom tied to his specifications.


Downplaying his own accomplishments, Bob liked to brag about his father’s tennis-playing skills.


“Dad liked to say that he never lost a set to Jack Kramer in his life,” said Bob Slamal when Tom died in 1991. then he would go on to explain that Kramer won Wimbledon in 1947 and the U.S. Championship, the predecessor to the U.S. Open, in 1946 and 1947.


The two Slamals’ sporting lives were invested in the Ski and Sport stores with passion and knowledge. Bob Slamal’s death brings to a close an era of family-owned, local sporting goods stores that brought a personal component, expert product and sport knowledge, education and training of staff and customers, and information about local outdoor activities and sports to the retail business. It was rare day when there was not a fly-casting lesson taking place or a skateboard being test driven in the parking lot behind the Riverside store. Today’s chain stores and mega outdoor retailers don’t have couches.


Bob Slamal said it best when his father passed away in 2010 at 91, but it applies even more today, “It’s the end of a generation, a whole era.”


Slamal is survived by his wife of 45 years, Leslie Slamal, his son Scott Slamal and his wife Becky, his daughter Jill Peterson and husband Tim, and his granddaughters Makalya Slamal and Megan Peterson, as well as his Labrador Scout. A memorial service attended by over 200 people was held Friday (June 19) at the Sunkist Center Building at the California Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside. The memorial was a two-hour, story-telling session from family and friends about outdoor adventures with Slamal.


The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made in Slamal’s name to Trout Unlimited, a national organization dedicated to protecting and restoring rivers and their watersheds.




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