TRIGGER WARNING: This article makes reference to mental health and suicide.
Now, Australia’s best lifeguard is trying his hand at something new, inviting guests to share their ups, downs and everything in between on his new podcast Life’s a Beach.
For Hoppo, who briefly worked in radio before becoming a professional lifeguard, the time felt right to show another side to his loveable personality and to hopefully help a few people along the way.
“I figured at my age it was time to do the podcast because I wanted to help people and bring awareness to topics like mental health and suicide awareness,” he told The Latch. “Also, everyone has that connection to the beach so it seemed like a good idea. I helped people for so many years at the beach and so I wanted to help people this way too whether its domestic violence or suicide, everyone’s got something.”
During episodes of Life’s a Beach, Hoppo doesn’t just invite his guests to get candid about their lives, but shares his own stories of triumph and tragedy. When asked which he found more daunting, jumping into the ocean to save a life, or jumping into the competitive world of podcasting and bearing his soul, Hoppo laughed before answering.
“I’m pretty comfortable jumping in the ocean after all these years so this was scarier because I didn’t know how people would respond. The fear came from that and from wondering if anyone would listen.”
For those that have tuned in so far, they have surely picked up on Hoppo’s mission statement of helping people. The Bondi Rescue star has so far enjoyed guests such as actor Mark Furze, comedian Rosie Waterland and SAS Australia’s Eden Dally, finding common ground in shared experiences.
In particular, his conversation with Furze got deeply personal, when both men shared their experiences with miscarriage and the difficulty men can find in speaking about the subject.
Hoppo, who married lDENTITY PR Managing Director Karen Griffin in September 2020, told The Latch that he hopes to break down the stigma around men opening up or even seeking outside help when dealing with pregnancy loss and mental health issues.
“Women go through miscarriage physically and emotionally but it is hard too for men too because it’s so hard to see someone you love going through so much pain, like with Karen,” Hoppo said.
“There’s this idea that men, and I even had moments of it, where it’s like, ‘toughen up’, but it is hard for us. As Mark (Furze) said, it’s nothing to be embarrassed about and happens to lots of people.”
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The idea that grief, trauma or hard times is something that can serve as the ultimate equalizer is something Hoppo clearly feels passionately about.
“At the end of the day we all go through downtimes, even if you’re a multi-millionaire, we’ve all had times we’ve struggled.”
Further exploring the theme of mental health and suicide awareness, Hoppo — who has served as an ambassador for R U OK? Day — revealed the steps that are now being taken to ensure that lifeguards and lifesavers are equipped with the tools they need to handle the emotional demands of the job.
Explaining that people in his profession are faced with many traumatic situations such as body retrievals (from both drownings and suicide), Hoppo says that efforts are now made to get on the front foot of the mental fallout.
“We now do training to prepare us mentally, which we never used to do,” he says. “We used to get counselling after the fact (seeing someone die) and we were so prepared physically but not emotionally. So now we make sure we prepare emotionally so that we are equipped to deal with things when they happen. So far the guys are loving it.”
This important change to the training regime is welcomed but, sadly, too late for some.
“In the ’90s, when I started, we didn’t do it (the emotional preparation) and two of the older guys I knew committed suicide and I wondered, I’m sure there were other reasons too, but I wondered if it was due to what we do,” he says. “You can think you have dealt with trauma but it comes back to bite you.”
As for who listeners can look forward to hearing on future episodes of Life’s a Beach, singer Shannon Noll and filmmaker Tim Bonython will be making appearances. And, if Hoppo can swing it, David Hasselhoff would be a welcome addition to the line-up.
“I’d love to get The Hoff,” Hoppo enthuses. “He came down once and we had a great time dressing him up and having a laugh so he’d be really fun.”
In his signature friendly, inclusive and humble way, Hoppo explains what he looks for when securing his guests.
“When you do a podcast everyone expects big celebs and asks you ‘who are you going to get?’ But at the end of the day as long as you have a story that you can share that can help people, I’m happy and I’d love to have a chat.”
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636 or Lifeline on 13 11 14.