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.

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - Celebrity - BONDI RES­CUE

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

some­thing else’’

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.’’

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