PROFILE Bruce Hopkins
What started as an idea for a one-hour special, writes Debbie Schipp, has grown into a global phenomenon that is not only entertaining but has helped save people’s lives.
PRE-DAWN at Australia’s 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.
The infamous Backpacker’s rip is already running for the day – waiting for its first unwary victim.
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 (pictured), walkie talkie on his hip, chats Bondi Rescue with one eye surveying the surf and sand.
‘‘This ismy favourite time of day,’’ he says. ‘‘It’s all ahead of us.’’
Hopkins has been a fixture of the lifeguards at Bondi for the past 21 years.
For the past eight of those, he and his colleagues’ summers have been faithfully recorded by the cameras for hit series Bondi Rescue.
What started as an idea for a onehour special is now a world-wide phenomenon, which has seen Hopkins and his colleagues travel to Sweden, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, Spain and Bali.
Season eight of the show is back on our screens, and this year the format has been given a twist, with the chance to get to know the lifeguards a little better at its core.
For the first time, they are narrating their own stories as they unfold.
‘‘It makes the stories more personal – it shows our characters a bit more, and whatwe do and why we do it,’’ Hopkins says.
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.
‘‘Ben Davies (one of the creators and producers) came to me in 2005,’’ Hopkins recalls.
‘‘Hewas working as 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’.
‘‘Hewent away andworked on it and we then nutted out a little idea on how to do it.
‘‘Cordell Jigsaw came on board, the cameras came in and Ten picked it up.
‘‘It was only ever going to be a onehour special at the start of summer.
‘‘But then the footage started going back to Ten. Among the early stuff was resuscitation from start to finish. Normally news crews wouldn’t get all of that, and suddenly the executives said: ‘We’ll do a six-part series’.
‘‘Then more footage went back, and it grew to an eight-part series. And the rest is history.’’
‘‘The thing I love is that just when you think you’ve seen it all, Bondi throws up
Eight years on, Bondi Rescue has changed the face of professional lifeguarding in Australia.
The series has turned unknown council employees into local heroes. Lifeguards Hoppo, Harries (Anthony Carroll) and Maxi have become household names and helped the show win five consecutive Logies.
With sales around the world, Bondi Rescue has spread the surf safety message globally.
‘‘It’s created opportunitieswe never even dreamt of. But best of all, it’s helped save lives,’’ Hopkins says.
‘‘I think it’s educated some people over the years.
‘‘The story that stands out forme is a lady who wrote from the Northern Territory, where a toddler fell in the backyard pool and was drowning.
‘‘She started resuscitation, just following what she had watched on the show, and kept the kid going. She said if she had notwatched the show she would have panicked.
‘‘The thing I love is that just when you think you’ve seen it all, Bondi throws up something else.’’