‘People Couldn’t Understand Why They Couldn’t Go On The Beach’: Bondi Rescue’s Hoppo Reveals How COVID Changed Lifeguarding

At the height of COVID, Australia’s picturesque and iconic beaches were for the first time in years devoid of the throngs of people who flock there.

After crowds continued to gather at Bondi, the NSW Government closed the beach in March last year after pictures of a packed beach went viral. For Bruce "Hoppo" Hopkins and the crew of lifeguards working Bondi, it was a huge shift.


“When we closed the beach for five weeks, no one around, it was a crazy time,” Hoppo told 10 play. “People have gradually started to come back to the beach but with no international tourists we’re probably down 50 percent.”

Following the closures, the council employed ambassadors to monitor the beaches, making sure social distancing requirements were being met, thankfully freeing the lifeguards up to continue patrolling.

But there were still changes to the way Hoppo and the team had to work, using a “pod” system that would rotate, working in small groups rather than all together.

“We had to change a few of our procedures, picking up on the rescue board and how we deal with people - we had to sort of keep our distance,” Hoppo explained.

While we’re now all used to following certain procedures, Hoppo said it was a shock to many when the beach first closed last year.

“People couldn’t understand why they couldn’t go on the beach, that was a bit different,” he said. “The locals who are used to coming down, swimming in the bay, going surfing and running in the sand - suddenly they couldn’t do it. That was a hard time, but everyone can understand now. It’s been a lot better.”

Last year wasn’t all bad for Hoppo, who got married in September - a smaller wedding which was delayed from April - and he and his now-wife moved up to Sydney’s Northern Beaches earlier in the year.

In mid-December a red zone was placed around several suburbs in the Northern Beaches after an outbreak occurred, which meant during Christmas and New Year's Hoppo was in lockdown.

“It was probably the first Christmas and New Year’s I’ve had off in 30 years which wasn’t too bad,” he said, laughing. “I thought it was going to be worse than what it was, we weren’t locked in the house, just the suburb, so we could still get out and go to the beach… perfect time of the year to have forced time off!”

Teasing what’s to come in the new season of Bondi Rescue, Hoppo said we can look forward to a hang-glider crash, troubles with the beach buggy.

“There was also a rat in the skate park… I think it was Harries who got scared of it. Throw in the rescues, first aid and all the usual stuff we have down at the beach.”

Catch Hoppo and the Bondi Rescue team Thursdays at 7.30 on 10 and 10 play