Mak­ing WAVES

For­get the con­tro­versy, Bondi Res­cue‘ s Hoppo wants to get on with the job, writes SHAN­NON MOL­LOY

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

Head life­guard Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hop­kins on the

con­tro­versy swirling around Bondi Res­cue

WAD­ING into trou­bled wa­ters is Bondi Beach head life­guard Bruce “Hoppo” Hop­kins’ forte.

Over his 25-year ten­ure at the fa­mous stretch of sand, he’s run head­first into dan­ger count­less times to drag strug­gling swim­mers and over­whelmed tourists to safety.

But the waves of con­tro­versy he’s been rid­ing lately are less fa­mil­iar. A re­port pub­lished by

The Daily Tele­graph last month raised al­le­ga­tions of unau­tho­rised deals en­joyed by Hop­kins and his crew, who ap­pear in the Net­work Ten fac­tual se­ries

Bondi Res­cue, as well as an al­co­hol-fu­elled cul­ture and dis­con­tent among the team.

Leaked emails ref­er­enc­ing five-fig­ure en­dorse­ments from brands sparked an in­ves­ti­ga­tion by Waver­ley Coun­cil over al­leged breaches of its code of con­duct. That probe is on­go­ing.

“It’s noth­ing that sort of wor­ries me too much,” Hop­kins says of the scan­dal.

When we speak, it’s via phone with two pub­li­cists from Ten lis­ten­ing in – ap­par­ently an in­sis­tence by the coun­cil. I’m told what ques­tions I’m al­lowed to ask.

It’s a fairly un­usual ap­proach – one typ­i­cally re­served for big-name Amer­i­can stars.

But things have clearly changed. The squeaky-clean im­age Hoppo and the stars of the long-run­ning se­ries have en­joyed for 11 years has taken a bat­ter­ing.

He wouldn’t com­ment about the is­sues now sub­ject to in­ves­ti­ga­tion. But on the team’s cul­ture, Hop­kins in­sists it’s solid.

“Ev­ery­one hangs out to­gether. They’ll go and have a beer af­ter work and hang out on days off. We all go away on hol­i­days and that.

“Ev­ery now and then you’ll have some­one who has a dis­agree­ment but that’s a part of life.”

The leaked emails in­di­cated things were far from peachy, with some of the life­guards openly at­tack­ing Hop­kins’ man­age­ment. But at the time of the in­ter­view, he and three col­leagues were in Perth pre­par­ing for the Rot­tnest Chan­nel Swim – a 20km open-wa­ter chal­lenge from Cottes­loe Beach to Rot­tnest Is­land.

“It’s re­ally good … there’s plenty of ca­ma­raderie.”

It’s one of sev­eral times he uses the word “ca­ma­raderie” through­out the in­ter­view, hint­ing Hop­kins has been briefed on some pos­i­tive key mes­sages to use.

On par­tic­u­larly busy days in sum­mer, there can be up to 40,000 peo­ple at Bondi in a day. The half-dozen life­guards on duty can per­form 150 daily res­cues. If they were pre­oc­cu­pied with in­fight­ing, Hop­kins be­lieves it would show in the sta­tis­tics.

“We’ve got to work very well and closely as a team. If some­thing goes wrong and we’re not on the ball, peo­ple are go­ing to die. That’s not some­thing we take for granted,” he says.

The up­com­ing new sea­son is the big­gest yet.

“We’ve got a few spinal in­juries, the usual dis­lo­cated shoul­ders, a lot of mass res­cues, heat ex­haus­tion … a few sharks cruis­ing through ev­ery now and again, too.

“The guys have been pretty ac­tive.”

Su­per­model Heidi Klum and Prime Min­is­ter Mal­colm Turn­bull stop by to say hello and three new faces join the team: trainee Ryan Yer­bury, 19, and ex­pe­ri­enced in­ter­state life­guards Chris Emery (WA) and Jack­son Doolan (Qld).

“I think it’s re­ally the ca­ma­raderie be­tween the guys and how we’re sort of knock­about guys,” Hop­kins says of the show’s ap­peal.

“The pub­lic re­late to us.” BONDI RES­CUE TEN, TUES­DAYS AND THURS­DAYS, 7.30PM

All smiles:

Bondi Res­cue’s

Bruce “Hoppo” Hop­kins.

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