Stand-Up Paddle Boarding Is Part of New Orleans Saints' Off-Season Workout

New Orlean Saints QB Drew Brees shows his teammates a new sport, stand up paddleboarding. Some players got a lesson in San Diego this week

This is not what most people would consider a typical San Diego beach vacation.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees and other teammates are barefoot on a small, secluded beach going through sweat-drenched drills that have them sprinting, jumping and doing push-ups in the sand to the sounds of the surf, seagulls and the piercing screams of encouragement from the trainers.

But the players look happy.

They are even laughing.

And they are looking forward to the last exercise of the day which is stand up paddle boarding, a sport many of these elite athletes have never tried but which looks easy to the beginner.

Many are about to find otherwise.

Brees tells me, "It will make the most athletic people feel pretty stupid! Anytime you are having to just balance on the water, it’s a different animal.”

The players will get a tutorial first.

Brees’ paddle board trainer Ernest EJ Johnson of Paddle Republic California with his blond dreadlocks, tattoos and years of experience as a competitive paddle board racer lays out the basics and the benefits of the sport.

“It’s good cardio, great core strength. It works your lats and all the muscles in your leg. Plus if you get hot, you can fall in the water,” Johnson said.

Falling in won’t take encouragement.

Immediately after shakily mounting the board on hands and knees, some of these six accomplished athletes start capsizing and quickly realizing that for the novice, stand up paddle boarding can be tougher than it looks.

Saints receiver Seantavius Jones laughs and says, ”It’s not easy at all, probably one of the hardest things I’ve done!”

This day is organized by Brees, who along with many professional athletes, keeps an off-season home in San Diego.

For camaraderie and a chance to be physically ready before the grueling grind of training camp, Brees invites teammates out to San Diego where the future hall of fame quarterback first got turned on to paddle boarding when he was a San Diego Charger.

On the water, Brees notices something that we have: his teammates may be rookie paddle boarders but they are also elite athletes and fast learners.

“They got the hang of it pretty quick but then it becomes who can stay on the longest? Who can race to a buoy the fastest? Who can knock each other off just messing around, having fun?”

Sure enough with sea legs established, some of the players start jousting with each other using their paddles.

We witnessed a drive-by water assault with Saints backup quarterback Ryan Griffin capsizing receiver Nick Toon.

That was followed by a revenge strike on Griffin three minutes later.

And Seantavius Jones, whose shaky start had him falling on his own, was helped backed into the water by good-humored assaults from his teammates.

Jones added, "Trying to knock people off the board? That’s not cool. I’m from Atlanta. I’m not used to doing stuff like this, it’s not cool!”

Joking aside, for these professional athletes a day on the water was a welcome relief from monotonous, typical football training.

For the instructor EJ Johnson, it was a chance to introduce these players to a sport now enjoyed by 2 million people.

And for Brees who put this together, it’s about off-field bonding with his teammates along with sharing a sport that he finds both athletic and peaceful.

“I've fallen in love with it. Out here in San Diego, I've been out here plenty of times and seen dolphins, I’ve seen seals," Brees said. "I haven’t seen any sharks though. I’m not sure I want to roll up on a great white!”

Contact Us