It was a complete eye-opener when Network Ten’s TV show Bondi Rescue first graced our screens back in 2006. Eye-opening to know that these brave Aussies were putting everything on the line to save lives every day, and eye-opening knowing that amongst the beauty and serenity of Bondi beach, so much chaos can, and does happen that often goes unseen.
Fourteen seasons later and not only has the show gained worldwide success, but Bondi Rescue’s lifeguards have been acclaimed as global heroes, most notably Bruce Hopkins (AKA Hoppo).
Hoppo kicked off his career as a lifeguard at the ripe young age of 22. Strong, full of fire, and ready to take on any challenge, he made it a mission to save lives. But little did he know that by the age of 50, he’d still be the same young gun doing the thing he loves the most.
“As you get older it does start to get a bit more difficult,” Hoppo tells myBody+Soul. “You need a bit more recovery with your training, and it’s tough being out in the sun for so long and getting dumped by the surf, so you do get a lot more injuries as you get older.”
To adjust to the demands of the job, the 50-year-old ensures he keeps his health at the forefront by fueling his body with the right foods. And although many of us would assume he’d be an advocate for the Bondi-esque food trends (cue protein shakes, vegan bowls, and zoodles), Hoppo’s diet is far from this. To him, a balanced diet means everything can be eaten if it’s “in moderation.”
This is what a typical day on a plate looks like to him:
Breakfast: A bowl of cereal, alternating between Sultana Bran and Special K. He will then have the occasional toast in between so he doesn’t “get too bored.”
Lunch: “Lunch is generally a sandwich, whether that be chicken and salad, or ham and salad,” he says. Hoppo also opts for sushi a few times a week.
Dinner: A big bowl of pasta, or plate of steak and veggies.
When it comes to his training, he defies all odds, proving age is really just a number.
From long ocean swims in the morning and afternoon, a couple of jiu-jitsu sessions throughout the week, to runs on the sand, Hoppo makes sure he is constantly keeping his body moving. What keeps him thriving and going back for more is the adrenaline of the job, and knowing every day is another chance to help others.
“When it’s busy and there are a lot of people around, it’s a massive adrenaline rush to try and make sure no one drowns and injures their life,” he adds.
“You know, I think that’s a big thing being a lifeguard, and going home knowing that you saved people’s lives, knowing if you weren’t there they would have drowned and lost their life.”
The Royal Life Saving Australia (RLSA) reported 249 drowning deaths and an estimated 551 hospitalisations resulting from non-fatal drowning incidents across Australia between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018. It’s because of these alarming statistics that he’s continued to be a part of the Bondi Rescue show – to train viewers in surf safety, educate them in emergency situations, and demonstrate that anyone can be a hero at the end of the day.
“When we first came up with the show, it was to teach people, show what professional lifeguards do, and show different methods of safety and first-aid experience. I’ve now had many letters over the years where people have done resuscitation on people that have drowned or had heart attacks, without any training – they’ve just done what we’ve done on the TV show to the best of their ability,” the Bondi Rescue lifeguard explains.
“One lady in the Northern Territory had a two-year-old fall in the backyard pool and she said that she pulled him out, started on resuscitation, never been trained and only did it on what she saw us do on the TV show. She mightn’t have been doing it 100 per cent, but it was enough to keep him alive until the paramedics got there. She said that if that show never existed, her son wouldn’t be here today.”
Now this is why we call Hoppo a true Aussie hero.