PRE- DAWN at our most famous beach and already Bondi is hitting its stride. Boot camp devotees sweat across the sand, surfers catch their dose of swell before shaking off the salt and heading to the office, and joggers pound the promenade.
At Bondi’s lifeguard tower, the quad bikes are exiting the shed, the boards are being brushed off and the lifeguards are doing their first checks and flag placements for the day.
Head lifeguard Bruce ‘‘ Hoppo’’ Hopkins, walkie talkie on his hip, chats Bondi Rescue with one eye surveying the surf and sand.
‘‘ This is my favourite time of day,’’ he says. ‘‘ It’s all ahead of us.’’
Hopkins has been a fixture at Bondi for the past 21 years. For the past eight of those, his summers have been faithfully recorded for hit series Bondi Rescue.
Season eight is back with a twist – the chance to get to know the lifeguards better as they narrate their own stories.
As head lifeguard, Hopkins has seen Bondi at its best and worst and loves the beach all the more for it.
A lifetime local, he knew Bondi was special. But he wasn’t sure you could make a television show out of it.
‘‘ It’s a funny story. Ben Davies [ one of the creators and producers] came to me in 2005,’’ Hopkins recalls.
‘‘ He was a freelance cameraman, and said ‘ there’s not much on, I might try out and be a lifeguard casual for the summer’.
‘‘ He got on and worked with us and at the end of it said: ‘ I think there’s a television show in what we do here’.
‘‘ Cordell Jigsaw came on board, the cameras came in and Ten picked it up.
‘‘ It was only going to be a one- hour special at the start of summer. But then the footage started going back to Ten and the executives said: ‘ We’ll do a six- part series’.
‘‘ More footage went back and it was an eight- part series. And the rest is history.’’
Bondi Rescue has changed the face of professional lifesaving in Australia. It has turned unknown council employees into local heroes. Lifeguards like Hoppo, Harries ( Anthony Carroll) and Maxi have become household names and helped the show win five consecutive Logies.
‘‘ They’re a knockabout bunch of Aussie larrikins,’’ says executive producer Michael Cordell. ‘‘ But when things go wrong, these guys are supreme professionals. Scores would drown each year without the boys in blue. No question. It would be a disaster.’’ With sales of the series globally Bondi
Rescue has spread the surf safety message. ‘‘ The story that stands out for me is a lady who wrote from the Northern Territory, where a toddler fell into the backyard pool and was drowning,’’ Hopkins says.
‘‘ She started resuscitation, following what she had watched on the show, and kept the kid going. She said if she had not watched the show she would have panicked.’’
BOYS IN BLUE: Hoppo and Maxi at the beach that has made them household names. BONDI RESCUE, TDT, tonight, 6.30