Jimmy Freese - Aku Shaper

When did you start surfing?
Between 8 and 10 years old I got my first board. We grew up a few blocks from the beach on the East side of Oahu. So I grew up surfing a lot of wind slop.

Who influenced you to get into surfing?
Mostly my friends, every other person around here surfed and all their older brothers, so we would just tag along with them.

Do you have a favourite surf spot?
I really like P-Pass, definitely my favourite spot.

What is it that you love about surfing?
Getting Barreled.  There are so many benefits from it including the exercise and social aspect, all that stuff.  When you haven’t surfed in a while and you might be feeling a bit down, you know that you really need a surf even if the waves are small.

What is your go to board at the moment?
One of the first guys to use our software Jim Tomlinson worked on a board with me which I’ve modified over the years; this 6’3 round pin tail board, a 6’6 board by Tim Carroll that I really like, a 6’3 I just picked up from Wade Tokoro that works really well, a 7’6 gun that I love but my mate ran over it with his car. I like them all.

What kind of Education have you had?
I went to Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh where I studied Chemical Engineering, then I want to graduate school at the University of Texas at Austin, and got my masters in Chemical Engineering with the emphasis on Control Theory, which gave me the background and interest in computer programming. I was into maths and science when I was younger so kept with that in College.

How did the idea for Aku Shaper come about?
I came down to Australia on vacation where I ran into Nev Hyman who had a board that came off a machine that he had been working with, which was a lot better than anything I’d seen over here, so we got talking and he mentioned that they needed a software solution, so we got started on that.

How long did it take to develop?
It took about 2 years to get it to a workable state, but it’s something that is always being worked on.

Is it a market leader?
Yeah, we have the most machines around the world and by far the largest user base.

Have you personally tried your hand at shaping?

Not as much as I should have. I have access to a lot of shapers. But every time I plan to I remember that I’m better off leaving it to the pro’s.

Do you see yourself developing the software further, in terms of additional features?
We have heaps of plans in the works. We’re going to re-model the way in which the board is modeled. Overall there are a lot of new tools out there in the 3D printing and Computer Numerical Control (CNC) world that have advanced that we can use. We approached the development of this program from a very mathematical angle, we’re not professional programmers but looking back there are things we can improve in the coding.  It’s also about what people want and what kind of boards they want to be riding, for example the popularity of SUP’s has increased in recent times, and we found out people are shaping skateboards with the program, so we need to add more tools, which may be easier with a different model. We’re trying to keep it flexible.

Do you have a big team that works with you?
Not a huge team. My partner Mike builds the machines on the Gold Coast, and he has a couple of guys in the factory, then I have a few guys over on my side doing the programming stuff. The tricky thing is finding the right guys who do know what they are doing mathematically and I’m super stoked on the team we have now.

What is it that you love about your job?
I enjoy the industry and working with shapers. It’s interesting to see the different approaches they take and the emphasis they put on different parts of the board. I like computers and coding, and I enjoy modeling. The flexibility is also a big benefit of this job. If the surf is good I’ll I try to be out there.

Who has had the biggest influence over what you do?
My dad is the main one. As a Mathematics professor he learnt to code off his own back. I went to a school University that was pretty strong in computer science but I didn’t take many classes in it. I appreciate a lot of shapers because of the care and preciseness they put into their products so I take away that kind of approach and apply it to my work. I also take away a lot from the guys I program with and what they bring to the table.

Where can we find you online?

Web: www.akushaper.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/akushaper
Twitter: twitter.com/akushaper
Youtube: www.youtube.com/user/akushaper


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Posted by: Matthew Ryan, on April 16, 2014
Categories: Interviews