Efe Kuyumcu was seven years old the first time he went sailing. Neighbors at a vacation village where he was with family offered to take the youngster out for an afternoon on the water. When he returned to shore the boy was hooked but it would be another five years before he sailed again.
“I thought about it a lot,” said Kuyumcu, a native of Turkey and recent Stevens graduate. “But the sailing club by us closed down and we soon moved to a different area.”
Fueled by determination and desire when Kuyumcu turned twelve he was able to return to the water. He was named to the Turkish junior national sailing team and competed heavily between 1998 and 2003, winning several prestigious competitions.
Things were moving along smoothly for Kuyumcu until he was grounded with an injury at the age of 18. It was at that time Kuyumcu began thinking about his future. Not only in the sport of sailing, but academically.
That is how he wound up in Hoboken, N.J. along the banks of the Hudson River at Stevens Institute of Technology. He decided to turn his passion for the water into a full-fledged career.
In 2006 he enrolled in the Naval Engineering program at Stevens and graduated this past December with a Bachelor of Science degree. Kuyumcu kept his thoughts in sailing and began a strict exercise regimen to heal his injuries and strengthen himself.
“In the morning I would do endurance exercises like running, cycling, and rowing,” he said. “During the day I would go to class and then have another work out.”
One thing he did not do, however, was sail. Not only was it going to be difficult to find an Olympic Class Heavyweight sailboat that he could use on a regular basis while living in New Jersey, but also the swift currents of the Hudson River were not conducive for effective training.
So he focused on the exercise and also learned new things about sailing from his courses. Armed with the new information, when Kuyumcu finally got back on the water, he was a stronger, smarter sailor.
“It is now easier for me to understand the water, and make me a bit faster when sailing,” he said of his Naval Engineering knowledge. “Now I can factor in the elements from what I learned at Stevens.”
His hard work paid off and late last year Kuyumcu was re-elected to the Turkish Olympic Sailing Team of 2011. Over the next year and a half Kuyumcu and another athlete will compete and eventually, one will be selected to compete in the 2012 Olympics to be held in London.
While focused on those games, he is also setting his sights on the 2016 Olympics and a chance to represent his country – and Stevens – in Rio de Janeiro
When asked how his life has changed since his recent graduation, Kuyumcu says that he has maintained his exercise schedule only now he uses the time spent in class on the water.
It is when he is out there, alone on the water, that he is most focused these days. “It’s instinct, but it feels right. It’s why I keep going back to it,” he said. “It just feels right.”