Until one day, I was taking photos at the “Three Sisters” now named “Big Momma” (I named it that) and a guy came down in a slalom boat with a red/white, and blue outfit that had USA written on it. I watched as he surfed the first wave of the Three Sisters. He kept going back and forth. I didn’t understand, didn’t he know he was on the best ender wave of the Kennebec? I kept yelling, “ENDER, ENDER”! but he didn’t listen, and then just paddled away. I caught up to him later. His name was Hank Thorburn. He told me he was on the USA Slalom team. I said, “What?” He confirmed. I didn’t know about any US Slalom Team. I asked him how I got on the team; he gave me that, “are you stupid?” look and ignored me. I went from never being in a kayak race to being fully sponsored in one day.
I asked my friend, Wayne Hockmeyer (Northern Outdoors owner) if he could help me get a kayak and get to a race. He said, “I’ll buy you a kayak and take you to the races”. True to his word he bought me a company color green and yellow “Excalibur II” a green and yellow paddle jacket and life jacket. I had my homemade wooden paddle and my “Eric” yellow protect with the arrow in front. He took me to the Androscoggin Kayak Race in Errol, New Hampshire. I took second behind Chris McCormick (5th in the last world championships he did) and ahead of Chris Smith, also a member of the last US team. Chris McCormick called Bill Endicott and told him about this local kayaker who was only 3 seconds behind him in his first race. I also called Bill Endicott and asked him how to get on the US team. He told me to come to Maryland and train for a week. If he thought I had potential, he would let me train with the crew, who at the time consisted of, Jon Lugbill, Cathy and Davey Hearn, Fritz and Lecky Haller, Mike and Marty McCormick, and others. My dad took me to Maryland that fall of 1983 and it went well enough that I got the invite from Bill Endicott. In his exact words, “Eric, if you move here and train full-time, perhaps in five years, you too could be on the US Team.” I went to Maryland in January of 1984. I transferred from the University of Maine to University of Maryland engineering programs.