A decade on, Bondi Res­cue cel­e­brates the chang­ing of the guards

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - FRONT PAGE -

A QUIET un­ease washes over rookie Bondi Beach life­guard Jethro James when he re­calls the mo­ment he plucked a drown­ing five-year-old boy from the surf last sum­mer.

The 20-year-old had signed on as a trainee surf life­saver at the fa­mous stretch of Syd­ney sand just months ear­lier and came across the strug­gling child al­most by ac­ci­dent.

“Luck­ily, I was sit­ting right in front of that spot of wa­ter,” James says. “He was there one sec­ond, then he was in a lot of trou­ble. I saw him strug­gling … so I just ran in.

“He was in a re­ally bad way. The wa­ter was only up to my chest, but for him … he was gone. I grabbed him and rushed him in. He was so de­fence­less.”

The res­cue has stuck with the young life­guard, who has been sup­ported through the lin­ger­ing ef­fects by older col­leagues who have seen it all over the years.

“We’re all pretty close down here,” fel­low-life­guard Trent “Maxi” Maxwell says.

“Jethro and I hang out a bit. He’s a good life­guard and a re­ally good kid, and I’ve taken him un­der my wing a bit, both on the job and out­side of work, too.”

Maxi is one of sev­eral stars of Bondi Res­cue, which is now in its 10th sea­son and has been broad­cast in al­most 100 coun­tries.

Start­ing work at 16, dur­ing the show’s sec­ond sea­son, Maxi has grown up on screen.

Fame, par­ties, perks, a Cleo Bach­e­lor of the Year win and count­less op­por­tu­ni­ties to cap­i­talise on his TV no­to­ri­ety have fol­lowed. But that’s all sec­ondary to the real stuff.

“That’s all fine, but I like help­ing peo­ple go­ing through a rough time … and en­cour­ag­ing oth­ers to get in­volved,” he says. “Whether it’s men­tal health aware­ness or can­cer char­i­ties … that’s what I like do­ing.”

As well as his fam­ily, who make sure the com­mu­ni­ty­minded 24-year-old doesn’t get a big head, Maxi has been men­tored by Bondi vet­eran Bruce “Hoppo” Hop­kins.

“I started here in Septem­ber 1991 and young Maxi was born at that ex­act same time,” Hoppo laughs.

“He bags me about that all the time. That makes me feel old.”

It takes a cer­tain qual­ity to be one of the elite few cho­sen to pa­trol the world’s busiest beach, he says, adding not too many hope­fuls have what it takes.

“There’s a phys­i­cal as­pect to it, ob­vi­ously, but a lot of it is in­tu­ition and com­mon sense,” Hoppo says.

“If they’ve got that, this is a dream. Most of the kids who join as trainees have grown up on the beach, they surf, they love be­ing here.”

One of the orig­i­nal Bondi cast, Hoppo is sur­prised by the show’s longevity.

“I thought we might get a year or two, but here we are. It’s be­come this kind of iconic Aussie show, which is amaz­ing,” he says.

With that longevity comes celebrity – Hoppo is regularly stopped by fans in the street, not just in Aus­tralia but also dur­ing hol­i­days in Lon­don and Dubai. The other side of that is tabloid at­ten­tion – last year a rough patch in his re­la­tion­ship was splashed across web­sites mag­a­zines.

“As I tell the younger guys, we’re putting our­selves out there,” he says. “We can turn around at any time and say we don’t want to do the show any­more. You just take the good with the bad.”

And af­ter that public bit of bad, Hoppo got to celebrate some good ear­lier this year with his wed­ding to long­time part­ner Stacey Woods.

Their happy day – which he de­scribed as “just per­fect” – was, of course, cap­tured by cam­eras for the show.



Pic­ture: Richard Dob­son

Up to the task: BondiRes­cue stars Jethro James, Trent Maxwell and Bruce Hop­kins.

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