Health Hacker: Incredible Trait Bondi Lifeguards Share

Author: Adam MacDougall   Date Posted:26 April 2019 

Bondi Rescue’s lifeguards were put through their paces on a recent episode and it revealed an incredible result about their physical fitness.

Back in my rugby league days, we all used to dread the short turnaround. There was nothing worse than finishing a bruising, exhausting 80 minutes of football, and knowing you’d have to lace up the boots and do it all again four or five days later.

Which makes what Bondi Beach lifeguard Bruce Hopkins does most weekends even more amazing. Bondi Rescue’s “Hoppo” turned 50 this year, but one of the most senior lifeguards at the world's most famous beach is showing no signs of slowing down.

For an episode of the show, the lifeguard team was fitted with exercise trackers, and the results were incredible.

“Our heart rates were going from 60 beats per minute up to 200 beats during a rescue, and during a busy day we can do up to 20 rescues, so our hear rates were going up and down, up and down,” Hoppo said.

“We were never really sure what our bodies go through in a day, but when they put in the computer, the data showed it was like playing three games of footy back to back.

“Age is just a number. Keeping up with the young blokes keeps me fit. They’re always going 100 percent, and you push to keep up with them. And I just love beating the younger blokes!”

Adam MacDougall puts Bruce “Hoppo” Hopkins through his paces. Picture: Damian Shaw

Adam MacDougall puts Bruce “Hoppo” Hopkins through his paces. Picture: Damian ShawSource:News Corp Australia

Most of us want to get fitter and healthier to improve our own lives, but not Hoppo. He trains like some else’s life depends on it. Because it does.

“We’ve got to be fit for what we do here. We can get 30,000 people a day, and people don’t realise the concentration you need to have all day, while you’re in the sun and the wind and the elements. You’ve just got to be fit,” he said.

“For us, it’s a lot of ocean work, because that’s where we do our rescues. But we do a lot of running and gym work, too. And most of us do a lot of pilates and yoga to keep the muscles supple and flexible.

“And then there’s diet. We’ve obviously got to keep hydrated during the day and eat correctly. We’re here from 6am to 7pm — it’s a long day — and if you don’t fuel yourself in that time, you get too exhausted to do anything.

 if even one member of the team drops their guard, it could cost someone their life.”

But no matter how focused they are, or how fit they are, accidents remain a tragic reality at beaches right across Australia. And when they do, Hoppo says, it’s something you can’t train for.

“That stress is a big part of our job,” he said. “As an older bloke, I mentor people and talk them through it, and remind them they’re doing the best they can to save people’s lives.

“But there’s a lot of banter during the day, and after work, we sit down and have a chat and a beer, and it helps mitigate that stress.”

Adam MacDougall and Bruce “Hoppo” Hopkins at Bondi Beach. Picture: Damian Shaw

Adam MacDougall and Bruce “Hoppo” Hopkins at Bondi Beach. Picture: Damian ShawSource:News Corp Australia


Get your feet wet

“The first thing is about just getting out into the ocean and getting used to it. Australian beaches aren’t like others around the world; things get pretty rough here. But the more used to the ocean you are, the less likely you’ll panic.”

Play to the conditions

“The key is to learn how the waves break and how the currents work. Lifeguard and surfers will use a rip to carry them out to the break and then surf the waves back in. It’s about recognising those conditions, and learning how quickly they can change.”

Safety first

“I’ve been involved with virtual reality for about 12 months now, designing a water-safety program where, in VR, you go up in a helicopter and we illuminate the rip so you get an idea of how they actually work. Then we drop you into the water so you can learn how to float with it, or see how hard it is to swim against it. It’s so important to know how rips work, and how to deal with them.”

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