Eric Abbott '11 knows a thing or two about hard work. Just two months after graduating from USD with a degree in Communication Studies, the professional athlete took on the Stock Paddleboard World Championship—a 32-mile race from Molokai to Oahu—and won. What's more, he set a new world record, clocking in at an impressive 5 hours, 26 minutes. One month later, Abbott won the Catalina Classic, making him the fourth athlete in history to win both competitions back-to-back.
In the span of a month you broke a world record and won two world championships in paddleboarding. To what do you attribute this impressive winning streak?
Without a doubt, I could not have achieved what I have both on and off the water without the full love and support of my family. From the first time I was tossed in the ocean at nine months old through the present day, my Mom and Dad have supported my ambitions 100 percent. As I began to prepare for the 2011 paddling season, I knew that I wanted to make it a memorable one in honor of my family for supporting me unconditionally though my college career.
My main goal this year was to graduate in May. The secondary goal involved the Molokai World Championships of paddleboarding, and getting as prepared as possible for the event. I started to work under the guidance of a new coach, Ryan Levinson, who helped periodize my training to peak for the Molokai World Championships at the end of July. In addition, this was my fourth crossing of the Kaiwi Channel, and experience plays a large role in enhancing your performance.
"Everyone was so friendly and nice that USD started to feel like a large family rather than a traditional University. It was great being able to walk between classes and see friendly and familiar faces."
I understand that water sports have always been a part of your life, but what made you focus on paddleboarding?
I started paddleboarding when I was 14. During the summer months in Hawaii we get 20-25 mph trade winds, so when the surf was flat, paddling was another way to stay in touch with the ocean. Paddleboarding drew the attention and participation of some of Hawaii's best watermen, and as a young teenager I looked up to a lot of them, which drove me to take paddleboarding to the next level.
In addition to your career as a professional athlete, you are the director of marketing for Vertra: Elemental Resistance. How did your liberal arts education prepare you for the work you do?
I spent the majority of my career at USD in the Communication Studies Department. The wide range of core classes that I was required to take, as well as my major specific classes, helped me transition into working with an established action sport company like Vertra: Elemental Resistance. I was also fortunate to get dialed in with an internship with Kaenon Polarized though the USD communication internship program. Kaenon is a luxury performance sunglass company fashioned in the action sports world. Getting to work hand in hand with their Sports Marketing Director Chris Wyman helped me greatly in my transition from school to work.
Why did you choose to attend USD?
When I was a senior in high school I got a chance to visit the campus and was instantly hooked. The campus was amazing. I heard such great things about the student body and the faculty that I thought the school would be a great fit. USD is a smaller college with just over 5000 undergraduates and that was the type of atmosphere I was looking for in a University.
How would you describe your transition to life at USD and San Diego?
The first few days in San Diego I guess I felt a little strange, because I was in a new environment. Everything was so new and at times a little intimidating. However, any unsettling feelings I had were quickly squashed within the first week of classes, after I met the Communication Department faculty and got to know my classmates. Everyone was so friendly and nice that USD started to feel like a large family rather than a traditional University. It was great being able to walk between classes and see friendly and familiar faces.
What are your goals for the future?
In the future I hope to be able to remain in the action sports industry and continue to do sports marketing. In addition, I am getting my application prepared for the Hawaii Air National Guard for their pilot training program in April. I hope to be a pilot with their squadrons down the road.
- Anne Malinoski '11