Waving, not drowning
BEING a lifeguard on Sydney’s Bondi Beach not only involves monitoring the constant battle of swimmer against sea. There’s also recognising the potential dangers of fame.
With TV cameras providing regular intrusion into their working day, the Bondi Rescue lifeguards have had to accept they have rapidly growing public profiles.
For Dean ‘‘Deano’’ Gladstone, 31, that means ensuring the public doesn’t get in the way of his job.
‘‘It’s really funny. Some days it gets to the stage of harassment, but when it’s busy they generally leave us pretty clear,’’ he says.
Sitting in the Bondi command room while scanning the beach, Gladstone says: ‘‘I think they respect us and think that we do a good job.’’
Fellow lifeguard Chris ‘‘Chappo’’ Chapman says the lifeguards have contemplated employing someone to deal with crowds wanting photographs.
‘‘Coming into this past summer, with the popularity of the show, we thought we might have to get an extra guy — someone to take care of people coming to the tower and wanting to get photos with us.
‘‘When we’re busy we thought it might have been a problem with them getting in the way of what we do and safety on the beach, but people are really respectful of our job when we’re busy.’’
World famous Bondi attracts more than 2½ million people a year and the guards make about 2500 rescues each season.
With those sorts of numbers you may expect some high jinks among beachgoers.
But the lifeguards say they haven’t had to ‘‘rescue’’ a swimmer pretending to be in trouble, simply because they wanted to meet their television favourite.
‘‘Obviously with the show now, people know what we do and how serious it is,’’ Chapman says.
Bondi Rescue has attracted huge international interest and is distributed worldwide, including the UK, Sweden, Norway, Germany, Denmark and New Zealand.
No wonder that when he is away from the beach, Gladstone says he occasionally is recognised by fans.
‘‘If there’s a couple of us out together we’re more of a chance to be recognised. But it’s more the blue shirt that does it,’’ he says with a laugh, pointing to his lifeguard outfit.
‘‘Yeah, so I have a whole wardrobe of them at home!
‘‘It’s really just a novelty to me and it’s fun. My wife laughs at me because the young girls get very excited sometimes.’’
Smash hits: lifesavers-turned-TV performers Rod Kerr (driving) and Dean Gladstone do rescue drills on a jetski.