Also known as The Zip Line Guy! Steve is the owner and operator of EBL Zip Line Tours, the nation’s premier zip line installer.
EBL was founded in 1996 by owner Steve Gustafson. He obtained an Associate’s Degree from Rock Valley College, a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree from Western Illinois University. His concentration was on Recreation, Parks and Tourism, Adventure Education and Geology. As part of his graduate level course work, he participated in a Wilderness Education Association National Standard Program wilderness expedition. This expedition consisted of 33 days in the rugged back country of the Wind River Range of Wyoming, 10 days in Sinks Canyon, 10 days in the desert outside Boulder UT, and 8 days white water kayaking on the Salmon River in Idaho. He successfully completed his course work and became a Certified Outdoor Leader. He conducted dual internships; 3 months with the Rockford, IL Park District and 9 months with George Williams College in Williams Bay WI.
Fueling his passion for adventure education, Steve went on to be a part-time volunteer at the Breckenridge Outdoor Education Disable skier program for 5 years while he accepted his first position for the State of Oklahoma in LeFlore County, operating adventure trips for youth at risk. This provided troubled youth the opportunity to experience ropes challenge courses, white water canoeing, low ropes “teaming” exercises, back country hiking in the Ozark mountains, and wilderness camping.
Steve has been reinventing how zip lines are installed and operated. He has been coined the “Father of the modern day zip line,” as new designs push the envelope of what zip lines used to be in the 1970’s
Moving on to work for a short spell in New Jersey for Cradlerock Outdoor Network, one of the largest ropes challenge courses installers of the time, Steve’s passion for ropes courses and zip lines began to be more dominate. This allowed him to move in to a Challenge Course Director position for a large YMCA outside of Lafayette, IN.
After leaving the YMCA, he moved back to his hometown of Rockford, IL to begin EBL in 1996. He has traveled extensively delivering one of a kind corporate team building seminars, focusing on group development and self improvement workshops. He has credit for interactions with over 75,000 corporate professionals and numerous guest speaker engagements. Steve was also featured once on Bloomberg television in New York. He is also well traveled for the installation of ropes challenge courses and has delivered installation projects internationally.
In 2002, EBL was approached by a father and son team from Maui Hawaii to co-install the first marketed commercial zip line tour in the US. EBL went on to install the first 5 tours in Hawaii, first tours in Alaska, Florida, Wisconsin, Iowa, Idaho, California, Illinois, North Carolina, and numerous other courses in the lower 48 states. EBL installed the first Aerial Adventure Park in 2005 in SE Alaska, a trend that continues to grow today. Also in 2005, EBL installed its first “company owned” tour, leasing the tour out to the local company for operations. In 2006 and 2007, EBL installed our largest project to date for the newest U.S. ski resort in Idaho. This tour challenged EBL to create a tour not found anywhere else in the world. With a mix of ground to ground, tree to tree zip lines, zip line off granite cliffs (Idaho Batholith to be precise) and zips into the high arboreal canopy of Ponderosa Pines of 115 feet off the ground! This is truly a magnificent course to be enjoyed by all who attend. EBL operated and managed the ski resort location from 2009 – 2016, partly due to the resort being shuttered, bankrupt, and continually crippled by questionable management. Now, EBL has installed the latest company owned course in McCall, Idaho, entitled Zip McCall Adventures.
Steve continues to consult with other start up tours for feasibility studies, designs, and layouts.
All while focusing on the zip line industry, Steve has been reinventing how zip lines are installed and operated. He has been coined the “Father of the modern day zip line,” as new designs push the envelope of what zip lines used to be in the 1970’s. Some have even called him the “Zip Whisperer” because he has the talent to walk a property, vision zip lines and operational designs, unforeseen by other installers.
As if the business challenges weren’t enough, Steve had the added challenge of creating a new industry association, write safety standards, and developed an insurance program to be able to address these new zip line type tours. This was after being shunned for nearly four years by the association of the time, all for asking critical questions about association control, voting rights, vendor accreditation, and leadership motives. Steve got fed up with the “good ‘ol boy” politics of the day, and in 2003, co-founded the Professional Ropes Course Association (PRCA). The PRCA went on to become the industry’s first American National Standard Institute (ANSI) Accredited Standards developer in 2005. Steve wrote the accreditation policy and procedures, working hand in hand with ANSI through the 9 month accreditation process. While this was no easy task, the PRCA was, and was rewarded for his efforts in 2014 when the PRCA received the first industry Accredited American National Safety Standards by ANSI. While Steve was a founder of the PRCA in 2003, he also served as President of the Board of Directors until 2014 and has since served the association from the non-voting Advisory Board, the Accreditation Committee for other vendors in the peer review process, all while maintaining EBL’s Accredited Vendor status with the ANSI/PRCA Challenge Course, Zip Line / Canopy Tour, and Aerial Adventure Safety Standards. Since Steve broke out on his own and would not buckle to what he believed as dirty politics, he is known as a bit of a maverick. Even to this day, he is blackballed by the other association. Steve often says, “Well, if they are attacking you, then you know you are doing something right.”
Steve is still very active in the PRCA, has received patents for his dual zip line designs, aqua zip platforms, adjustable zip platforms, and has a patent pending for his new Zip in A Box designs. Today, you can see Steve on his projects through Zip Away!