Surfer paddle-out celebrates the life of Junior Seau
Several hundred surfers took part Sunday in a memorial paddle-out in the ocean in front of Junior Seau's Oceanside home to celebrate the life and mourn the passing of the football star and civic benefactor.
“Junior, Junior, Junior,” the surfers chanted, followed by “Fifty-five, fifty-five, fifty-five,” Seau’s number at USC and during 20 years in the NFL.
At one point, the surfers formed a circle and held hands while a prayer was said for Seau, who commited suicide last week at age 43.
Among the surfers was Drew Brees, who played quarterback for the San Diego Chargers while Seau was the star linebacker and emotional heart of the team. Brees now plays for the New Orleans Saints.
On the beach, hundreds of fans and well-wishers gathered while the surfers paddled out. Many brought flowers and other mementos of Seau’s long career. Hearts with Seau’s name inside were common.
Along with surfers were outrigger canoes, kayaks and a paddleboarder. An Oceanside lifeguard boat was nearby and news helicopters buzzed overhead.
“Seau brought an enthusiasm and energy to every play of every game,” said Chuck Lockett, 60, wearing a white Chargers hat and a wet-suit. "He was the reason I went to Chargers games."
Although gathered for a somber occasion, the spirit of the crowd, in the water and on the beach, was joyous. There was some sobbing but there was more cheering.
Seau was found dead Wednesday morning in his bed. The medical examiner confirmed that he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest. A gun was found near his body but no note.
The Chargers are planning a celebration of Seau’s life on Friday, at San Diego’s Qualcomm Stadium, starting at 6:30 p.m. The parking lot opens at 2 p.m. Because a large crowd is expected, the team has suggested that people form carpools or take the San Diego trolley.
Another remembrance is planned for Saturday at Oceanside High, where Seau was a star athlete. The school’s athletic program is one of the many youth programs that benefited from Seau’s foundation that raised millions of dollars for charitable projects from 1996 to 2010.
-- Don Bartletti in Oceanside, and Tony Perry in San Diego
Photo: A San Diego Chargers flag flies at half-staff as hundreds of fans and friends join a paddle-out in memory of Junior Seau. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times