Rat­ings res­cuers

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - DEB­BIE SCHIPP

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

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