A surfer, rock-climber, filmmaker, entrepreneur, and quasi-philosopher, Steve Jumper BA '09, turned a hobby into a full-time job when he started Jumper Surfboards in 2010. Spend just a few minutes on jumpersurfboards.com to experience the passion and dedication invested into this venture. The boards themselves are works of art in their color combinations and flawless glassing. With names like Pin Jump, Fast Boy, Shorty Single and Shovel Fish, these surfboards are all unexpectedly hand-fabricated by Jumper himself in a workshop located in Putnam Valley.
Jumper transferred to Purchase as a sophomore, when the rigid science-only program he was enrolled in at a college in Maryland failed to fulfill his creative side. Purchase's BA in Liberal Arts individualized program of study allowed him to fuse his passions for the outdoors, science, and filmmaking.
After graduation, Jumper earned a spot as an assistant associate producer and as an AC (assistant camera) on film crews making content for National Geographic and other outlets. Though a fascinating life opportunity, Jumper admits the grueling nature of expedition film production was not for him. "I started getting worn down by not being in control of the travel, of being at the mercy of the phone call. I love New York; I have family here and a strong connection here. And I'm not as much a vagabond as I kind of wish I was," he explained.
Faced with the need to find a new occupation, he focused on making surfboards for a living— conducting countless hours of research into the science of crafting a surfboard. Jumper's goal was to create his own niche in the market, engineering boards specifically for the "mushy waves" of New York. "New York waves get really steep and then crash all at once, so you want a board that fits into the wave," he described. The result of his research into shapes and theories was the arrival at his own unique style of board, ignoring what many surfers consider the norms. "I didn't invent these shapes and I'm not making any claims to any type of revolutionary designs. I just keep making what I'm passionate about," he said.
Having spent the past summer breaking norms further by peddling his boards in Montauk beach parking lots, at special events, and even at a gallery show, Jumper accepted a basic fact: The result of his efforts fell short of definitive business goals he had set for Jumper Surfboards. He calls the summer a success, however, because he received validation from expert surfers who get what he's trying to do. "They've surfed high-performance boards; they're amazing with those boards, but it gets boring and they appreciate the new approach to design that my boards offer."
What's a world-traveling filmmaker turned professional surfboard designer to do next? Steve Jumper has returned to Purchase to take pre-requisite classes for medical school. He's still making boards, but no longer worried about profit margins and marketing budgets, he plans to build the brand in tandem with the passionate surfers who most appreciate his vision.
Jumper sees the value in working hard even if the only result is finding out what doesn't work. He's grateful for the good fortune to have experienced dream jobs and achieved goals at such a young age, as he paraphrases Thomas Edison, "'before I got it to work, I found 10,000 ways it won't work.'"
Homepage cover photo: Ryan Hallquest