Meet A.J. Theisz, a double major in psychology and social work at CUW during the school year, and one of the elite "mailboat jumpers" in his hometown of Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, during the summer months.
Besides schoolwork, what are you involved in at CUW?
I have had the amazing opportunity to have been a resident assistant on campus for the last two years, and will be the assistant resident director of Regents Hall next year! I am also a research assistant for a psychological study on international medical missionaries. I am a part Psi-Chi, a national honors fraternity for psychology, as well as Phi-Alpha, a national honors fraternity for social work. I have been a marksman on Concordia’s shooting team for two years, and this last spring I earned national championship titles in two disciplines. I have been a drummer for the campus ministry band “Haven” for three years, and have drummed in the jazz ensemble and Concordia’s pep band for two years as well.
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How long have you been a mailboat jumper?
This is my second year as part of the mailboat crew on the U.S. Mailboat Walworth, and my sixth year working at the Lake Geneva Cruise Line. In previous years, I have worked other fun positions. I began as a dock hand for two years, then started as a tour guide and a licensed bartender for two years. I then became a full-time mail jumper, and I currently work as both a mail jumper and bartender on the mail boat. This summer might be my last with mail jumping, but I will probably continue with bartending on the Mailboat and other yachts at the cruise line.
What made you want to be a mailboat jumper?
I knew about the mailboat growing up, so when I was old enough and proficient enough at the tour, I wanted to see if I could be a part of the 106-year tradition. My sister Katie Theisz (who is a fourth-year pharmacy student at Concordia) was a also mail jumper for several seasons and encouraged me to try out when she stopped.
What does the job entail?
The mailboat goes out every day from 10:00-12:30; cleaning and preparation require the shift to go from 7:00 am – 1:00 pm. My schedule varies by week, but I am on the mailboat approximately four to five days a week. The number of deliveries in a day can vary from about 45 to 70 different piers.
It looks quite strenuous! Is it tiring?
Mail jumping the entire lake is very exhausting! There are also two sections of shoreline that the Mailboat cannot directly drop a jumper off, so the jumper is dropped off one pier and runs approximately half a mile on the shoreline to the next pier. I run this section with the other mail jumper even when I am bartending! The mail jumper must also be proficient in delivering the two-hour narrated tour of historical information in between jumps; it can be hard to catch your breath and immediately be back on the microphone!
Have you been injured or fallen into the water?
I am glad that I have never missed the mailboat or fallen in the water! My worst injury took place one rainy morning after I completed the half-mile run. I had completed the run and had waited for the Mailboat on the pier but my feet were wet and waves had crashed on the side of the boat making it extremely slippery. When I had made the jump back to the pier, my foot slipped and I slammed and scraped my ankle and shin on the side of the boat. Thankfully I held on and didn’t break anything, but I had fairly intense pain when completing the rest of the day’s deliveries.
What’s your best advice for someone new to the job?
My best advice for anyone new to the job usually entails jump technique tips: The mail jumpers have to run with the boat at an angle rather than running at the boat! It hurts pretty bad when you body-slam a moving 85-ton yacht!
In the Media
Last summer, A.J. and his mailboat tryout were featured prominently in this Spectrum News story:
This year’s tryouts were featured in a recent segment about Lake Geneva on NBC’s “Today” show (click image to view):
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