Gavin Cooper - Magicseaweed

When did you get your first surfboard?
I got my first surfboard when I was about 16. I was late to the game, but I was living in Bournemouth, UK at the time and surfing culture isn't ripe in a town that doesn't get decent surf very often. The surfboard I got was a second hand Nigel Semmens 6'8" shortboard with lots of volume.

What was the feeling you had when you first stood on a surfboard?
Pretty good, I'd spent a few months bodyboarding to get use to the waves and being out back. As soon as I stood up on a surfboard I didn't pick up my bodyboard again, turns out I wasn't very loyal to it.

What do you love about surfing?
Everything except cold water and howling winds. Even the lead up to surfing a good swell is awesome, seeing a swell 10 days out, mobilising your friends and changing all your plans so you make the most of it adds to the excitement. The drive down to the beach with all your buddies is always a good crack.

What was your most memorable wave?
I've had a few milestone waves, where I thought yeah I got that part of my surfing down, all of which were quite memorable. The most memorable that springs to mind right now is a wave I caught this year in Morocco. Anchor Point had been macking for a few days and I hadn't got much luck but the swell had dropped off a bit and we went to Desserts. Denny from Moroccan Surf Adventures had taken me and some friends a few times before but we'd never scored there. We rolled up at about 9am and it was perfect 5ft, the morning offshores were just dying down and there were only a few in the water. I was sat in a group on the point next to our Editor Ed Temperley and a wave rolled down the point, Ed was on the inside of me and didn't flinch, I was pretty amazed he let it go, I thought well I'll give it whirl. Dropped in quite late, but it just walled up down the line. Each backhand hack I did got fiercer. I kicked out way down the point, paddled back up with the widest grin only to meet Ed fuming that he missed it. Priceless.

Who did you look up to and admire when you were a grommet?
No one in particular.

Of all the places you have travelled to, what place in particular stands out? And why?
I've only really surfed a few places around the globe, I'm not a huge traveler. Kimmeridge Bay is probably still the most memorable place I've surfed and thats on the doorstop of Bournemouth. It's a shame it's not more consistent. It's a perfect left hand reef sat along the Jurassic Coast of Dorset, epic slate cliffs tower over the pancake flat reef.

What sort of education have you had?
I did the standard UK education, first school right the way through to university. I pretty much hated the first 50% where I was learning incredibly dull, but necessary, material. College and university however were awesome, finally I got to learn something interesting and that was business studies, design and software engineering.

What was your very first job?
If you discount things like paper rounds and shop assistants, my first real job was working at a small creative agency in Bournemouth called Dusza, designing and developing small websites. I learned an incredible amount about design from the creative director Steve Clark and still today thank him for that. It was the first time I'd done one of my hobbies and been paid for it. Pretty incredible when you can get paid for something you love, it would be like being paid to surf.

What is your current job and what does it entail?
Right now I work as a Lead Software Engineer at Magicseaweed.com, where I've been for just over three years now. My role here is quite broad, primarily I am responsible for overseeing the software engineering function of Magicseaweed. I am also an integral part of the product development team designing what the next Magicseaweed will look like and how it'll work, that part of my role is considered Product Management.

What direction would you like to see your career take?
In the future I'd like to move 100% into Product Management and hopefully as we grow the team here I'll be able to do that. Product Managers get to envisage and design the product, then broadly manage the delivery of that product through the design, development and marketing teams. Product Managers are the conceptual designers of pretty much everything great we use on the internet today, whether thats the Twitter iOS app or Apple's Siri. A considerable amount of CEO's in our industry (not the surf industry, but technology) stemmed from being great Product Managers.

How did you get into the position you are today?
Whilst I was in my final year at university, Apple launched the native iPhone SDK, seeing the iPhone as a revolution in mobile computing I picked up a few books on Objective-C (the language iOS development is in) and started learning the SDK and Objective-C. Fortunately at university you get plenty of free time to dedicate to other things. Magicseaweed posted an article online looking for iOS developers to help them build an app. I dropped them an email and met with them a few days later. After creating the first app as a freelancer and graduating, I came to work here full time looking after their mobile apps and have been responsible for every version of the app since. The current iOS app has thousands of 5 star reviews on iTunes, so I am pretty confident I've done it justice.

What do you like most about your job?
The best part is understanding a real world problem and utilising technology to create a product that solves that problem. A real world example of this would be the "tidal zoom" product, we've recently installed our own webcams across the UK, in the UK we have a large tidal range (up to 10m) and the biggest problem facing existing webcams were none of them had a good view of the surf at low tide, it was just too far away. Most modern webcams have zoom built in but require an operator to manually zoom them, which isn't a scalable solution for 20+ locations and putting the cam on what's called a guard tour rotating around the beach means more often than not your staring at flat water, which sucks. The fun bit was establishing the problem, creating the concept of a tidal aware webcam and making it happen, thats the essence of Product Management. Fundamentally I enjoy solving problems and fixing things.

Where can we find you online? 

Twitter: @gavincoop
Linkedin: uk.linkedin.com/in/gavincoop/
Instagram: @gavincoop

Posted by: Troy Roennfeldt, on August 7, 2013
Categories: Interviews

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