Forget the controversy, Bondi Rescue‘ s Hoppo wants to get on with the job, writes SHANNON MOLLOY
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
Bruce “Hoppo” Hopkins.