Born In San Diego
The son of Tim and Jana Palmer, he was born in San Diego, California, on November 12, 1968. His father left shortly after he was born, and Palmer was raised by his mother and his maternal grandmother, Perky Neely, who watched him while his mother worked at an assortment of odd jobs. With his beloved Perky, young Palmer watched the Winter Olympics on TV and dreamed of someday becoming a downhill ski racer. As a boy he showed a talent for skiing and baseball but was most interested in the relatively new sport of snowboarding. Never formally schooled in the sport, he taught himself to board. "I didn't watch tapes or study other guys—I just figured out what felt right," Palmer told People. By the time he was twelve, he had made his first snowboard.
In his teens, Palmer, then estranged from his mother, was living in South Lake Tahoe, California, with his grandmother. He dropped out of high school at the age of fifteen to join the junior snowboarding tour. "And I've been on the tour ever since," he told an interviewer for Swatch.com. For the next few years he was reigning junior world champion. In 1989, at the age of twenty, he won the world championship at Breckenridge, Colorado, a feat he duplicated in 1990.