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Jordan Darling, 2014 Tiger Tank winner reinvents freestyle jet ski technology  

April 5, 2016

by Eric Koomen

Jordan Darling, 2014 Tiger Tank winner reinvents freestyle jet ski technology

Spring 2014 RIT Tiger Tank winner Free Form Factory Inc. (FFF) took home a cash prize and the honor of first place in the bi-annual business pitch competition modeled after ABC’s Shark Tank. Born out of the frustration of breaking his hard earned savings on the first ride of his newly purchased fiberglass/carbon fiber jet ski, inventor Jordan Darling set out determined to create a commercially sold jet ski that exceeded the strength and durability of fiberglass jet skis currently available. Entering the competition as Precision Watercraft Enterprises, FFF has emerged. Successfully delivering on his mission, they are now shipping out production hulls and custom builds to the elite riders in the personal watercraft industry all over the world.

RIT TIGER TANK COMPETITION – Spring 2016
Wednesday, April 6 at 5:30 PM

  > Visit the Simone Center website for event details
  > Click to read more about five finalist teams

Darling, a Mechanical Engineer alum (’14) of RIT, found his inspiration by taking a class project aimed at finding unique applications for specialized plastics and targeting his project towards his quest of developing a jet ski that is nearly indestructible. Not only has he achieved his goal, their jet skis utilize environmentally friendly materials and a manufacturing process that delivers significant cost savings.

Photos courtesy of Ride Free Form, Inc.

Research and development involved a lot of prototype testing by the top athletes in the sport, as well as Darling's brother Skyler, an avid standup freestyle jet ski competitor. This has allowed Free Form to win over one of the elite teams as customers, the Lawlor family, a team of brothers and sister that are at the top of their sport. Sponsors such as Monster Energy Drink, VP Racing Fuels, and Dasa Racing quickly followed as sponsors.

Darling attributes much of his success to guidance he received from his family, close friends, and RIT professor Carl Lundgren, both as a professor and a mentor early on at the top-ranked Albert J. Simone Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at RIT. At the Simone Center, Darling received business advice from Saunders College of Business professors, while meeting and forming friendships with successful, like-minded, budding student entrepreneurs. That included Sean Petterson, founder of pioneering StrongArm Technologies, winner of the 2013 RIT Tiger Tank. With a Tiger Tank victory in hand and early assistance through RIT Venture Creations incubator, FFF has now emerged poised to capitalize on a superior product and manufacturing process the industry giants have not yet been able to crack – no pun intended, as their promotional video shows even a sledge hammer cannot penetrate the patented plastic and chassis FFF jet skis are made of.

With a growing list of pre-orders to fulfill Darling is ramping up production. On a recent visit to their factory, their most recent order was shipping out to Australia in time for the 2016 Australian World Championship. They are ready for the thrill of seeing their skis perform in more world class events including the X Games, appearing on the Discovery Channel, and even performing in a movie being produced by extreme sports legends.

Photos courtesy of Ride Free Form, Inc.

Free Form jet skis feature their proprietary HULKLITE plastic hulls that are 3.5 times stronger in impact and float, unlike their competition’s made of fiberglass. They also deliver an industry first internal chassis construction allowing customers to swap out jet ski decks (bottoms and tops) where otherwise riders need to purchase a whole new jet ski to achieve different ride performance or to replace a damaged deck. This is quite the savings in a sport where custom order skis can go for over $30,000. Darling proudly shares that all designs are his creation, with the help of various students from RIT, including Brendan Babiarz, a senior in RIT’s Industrial Design Program.

As a majority owner Darling is now seeking investors as new market opportunities are exploding. Interest and orders are already coming in from automotive, agriculture (via leads that originated when displaying his jet skis at an Imagine RIT Festival), and defense contracts. And he is on the verge of creating a brand new, untapped power sports market. His proprietary materials and manufacturing process will allow him to produce complex products at a price point major manufacturers cannot reach. Competitors' manufacturing processes take up to 250 hours to produce one jet ski hull. Free Form can produce 20 in the same timeframe.

Students watch the Tiger Tank finalist  presentations Students watch the Tiger Tank finalist  presentations

 

Darling’s industrious nature dates back to his youth and continued into his collegiate life, nurtured by an entrepreneurial-rich culture found at RIT. Prior to FFF he had embarked on several ventures with classmates including an application for plant testing in space for NASA, The Retriever, a floatation buoy used to locate sunken vehicles, and a mobile brail translator, his original Tiger Tank entry. So as FFF is positioned to take off, it is no surprise that he does not have the time to slow down to get settled. Darling will find the time to get married to his fiancé Jill, this August.

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Free Form Factory customer and professional rider Brandon Lawlor getting warmed up on his new FreeForm jet ski.

#Repost @lawlorbros with @repostapp. ・・・ Having fun getting my FreeForm Factory 2.0 ski all dialed in and ready for the Daytona Freeride. It's looking good with my custom Blowsion handle pole and all my anodized parts. Thanks to Thrust Innovations for the fuel tank and best trim system on the market. Thanks to TNT Performance Engineering for all the help assembling and tuning my ski. Looking forward to seeing everyone soon in Daytona. #flatwaterflippin @freeformfactory @dasaracing @dasaracingkyle @liquidmilitia @blowsion @freerideinnovations @jetpilotcompany @maximausa @worxracing @worxracingusa @thrustinnovations @tnt_performance @vpracingfuels @monsterenergy #lawlorbros #daylite #lawlormotorexpress #jetmaniac #rhassproducts

A video posted by Free Form Factory Inc. (@freeformfactory) on

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Saunders College of Business is one of nine colleges at Rochester Institute of Technology and is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business International (AACSB). Recognized and ranked, Saunders is home to more than 1,000 enrolled students with over 18,000 alumni worldwide. Partnerships with RIT’s Venture Creations incubator and top ranked Albert J. Simone Center for Student Innovation and Entrepreneurship help Saunders College deliver a business education that is integrated with RIT’s world-leading technical and creative programs. Saunders College offers undergraduate (BS), Masters (MS), Masters of Business Administration (MBA), and Executive MBA (EMBA) programs where students gain real-world business experiences in the classroom and through cooperative education programs.

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