By Madeleine Coorey, AFP
SYDNEY–Australia’s best-known lifeguard Bruce ‘Hoppo’ Hopkins knows there’s nothing better than the naked eye to spot the dangers of the surf �X rip currents and sharks. But the head lifeguard at Sydney’s most famous beach Bondi is happy nonetheless that local authorities have installed cameras to help scan the water, a move officials believe saves lives. ��You get a report that someone has gone into the water … you can put the camera on and get a closer look,�� Hopkins tells AFP from his lookout at the center of the crowded beach. ��Nothing is going to beat your eyes �X those of the lifeguards from the tower. This is for back-up and assistance,�� he says of the cameras that have made it easier to monitor Bondi for a couple of years and have more recently been installed at nearby beaches.
Lifeguards patrol Bondi Beach every day of the year, but the neighboring, and sometimes challenging, beaches of Bronte and Tamarama are unpatrolled by paid lifeguards during some of the southern hemisphere winter months. The new cameras at Tamarama, installed a few months ago, and those at Bronte allow lifeguards at Bondi to monitor what’s happening at those beaches in real time.
They can respond to any emergencies by jumping on a jetski, often reaching the scene in just one or two minutes. ��Often you will get a call that a board rider or someone is in trouble. You can look at the footage to get a jetski (out there). You can always zoom in too, on rock fishermen,�� says Hopkins. In decades past it used to be that swimming was discouraged at Sydney beaches due to the dangers of sharks and stingrays and for ��reasons of decorum.��