Meet a Local

Ryan 'Whippet' Clark

Frothers recently had the chance to catch up with Bondi Rescue's Ryan 'Whippet' Clark; A humble Bronte local who has attained the adoration of female fans worldwide. 

Interview by Christie Bennett

A man in uniform is enough to make a lady’s knees tremble at the best of times. Add to that a charming smile and true blue Aussie good looks and you have yourself a heartthrob. Sitting across from me, sporting an aqua blue shirt that really made his baby blues sparkle, I could see why Ryan ‘Whippet’ Clark, 27, is Bondi’s pin up boy. If the Bondi Rescue merchandise department need a new way to increase revenue, I suggest they ditch the flip flops and roll out a mass production of Ryan posters. Women worldwide will go wild at the prospect of kissing this beach blonde gem goodnight as he hangs above their bed.

Adolescence is usually an unforgiving time of awkward rejection and an ever present strive for the opposite sex’s attention. For Ryan, however, he was handed female adoration on a platter. As Sam, from Home and Away, he was a big hit with the young female audience. Schoolgirls Australia wide tuned in religiously, every night at 7, to catch a breathless glimpse of the Bronte born spunk. When questioned on growing up a sex symbol he states, “I got more shit from the boys, than praise from the girls back then.”

While Ryan was clearly aesthetically appealing to the young ladies, he was also admired for his board-riding prowess. Not that Summer Bay was the best place for an epic surf session; but he did get a few opportunities to showcase his surfing skills on the show. With only one day to shoot, it was irrelevant if the surf was 1 foot or 6 feet, he still had to surf. On the montages of him riding little dribble “I didn’t really care, I was getting paid to surf, so I would have surfed anything.”

Now, as a Waverley Council Lifeguard, Ryan is still paid to do what he loves without losing any of his sex appeal. The ‘boys in blue’ have become known worldwide as both watermen and gorgeous men. Whippet reckons, “When you’re on the beach, with a uniform on, a lot of people come and say hi, come up and ask questions, get their photo taken…it’s something different, so you make the most of it while it’s there.” If you are in doubt of Ryan’s popularity take a moment to check out the Facebook pages dedicated to the lifeguards, and you will soon realise women worldwide are keen to get a piece of him. Unfortunately for all those adoring fans, Ryan is a taken man. However, luckily for us, Ryan has taken a moment away from breaking hearts to answer a few of our questions.

Board dimensions – Fox 6’ x 18⅝ x 2¼
Local surf break – Bronte Beach
Favourite surf spot – Nias in Northern Sumatra, and the Mentawais

You’re a member of the Bronte Board Riders club, have you surfed competitively outside of this local comp?
I had one year on the Junior World Qualifying Series. It was a good excuse to travel around Australia for a year, but I had a knee reconstruction after that.

You have a diploma in Sports Management and an actor’s resume, so why did you become a lifeguard?
I pretty much spent 8-10 hours a day at the beach. I thought I may as well get paid to be down here. I spoke to Azza Graham and Kerrbox about an intake. Six years later…

Last season some of your childhood buddies joined the lifeguard team, how do you find it working with your friends?
I went to school with Mouse and did Nippers with Luke D. I can’t think of anything better than a good day down at the beach with three or four of your mates. It’s not really a hard day’s work when you’re there with friends; I like having them there.

You were a main character on Home and Away for years. Has your experience with television helped you during the filming of Bondi Rescue?
At the start especially, sorta being use to having a camera stuck in your face. For some of the other guys it wasn’t an easy transition, but everyone’s gotten use to it pretty quick. It’s a lot easier doing Bondi Rescue than it is doing Home and Away.

Do some of the other lifeguards act up for the cameras?
If you start to ham it up down there, or make things bigger than they are, it takes about five seconds and someone will start bagging you.

This year each lifeguard had the opportunity to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for another season of Bondi Rescue. What are your thoughts on being able to voice your opinion?
At the start we didn’t realise the show was going to become what it has become. When the idea first got put to us, we thought it would be a one off show that may not even make it to air. For the first couple of years it was a bit of a novelty, something different. Once that has worn off we are back to perfecting the job. We all sat down and had some meetings about it, and came to the conclusion that the benefits of the show outweighed any negatives.

Fans are always knocking at the tower door, or coming up to you on the beach. Does this ever get the better of you?
Fans are a bit if a distraction, more than a downside. But, if they’re watching the show it’s good, they might learn something.

When fans are chasing you for a signature are they after Sam’s or Ryan’s?
A lot of people at the time (during Home and Away) that’s all they know you as. It’s been nine years since Home and Away. Now I’m recognised as a lifeguard.

What impact do you think Bondi Rescue has had on the public’s behaviour at the beach?
I think a lot more people know about the flags and the rips. A couple of hundred thousand (people) come to the beach each summer, and they know where to swim that’s safe.
Some people might want to try and get on the show. You get people especially when something happens, a spinal or resus, and a lot more people start coming and getting in the way now. It’s more hectic.

The lifeguards are also involved in a school surf awareness program; do you think this initiative is helping children to become more surf smart?
Kids listen to other kids, and we are just big kids. (The children) listen to us more than they will a teacher. If we can help out a kid it makes it worth it for us.

You have said everyday you get excited about what the day will bring. Surely there can also be some scary moments on the beach, what is the most frightening thing that has happened?
My first resuscitation. I shit myself and froze. I knew what to do, but putting it into practice from training was a bit different. I had some of the older guys there. Hoppo, Corey Adams, Aaron Buchan. They took over, I got to watch and learn.

Last summer you performed resus on a local man, Tim. How did you feel working on someone that you all know personally?
Originally, on the way down, I thought that he was one of the surf school people. I got there and straight away realised it was Timmy! Normally, if it’s someone you don’t know you can block it out and do what you’ve got to do. But when it’s someone you know, and when you’re screaming his name out, it’s a bit harder. But it was a positive outcome. It’s good to see him back in the water; sometimes people don’t come out of these situations as healthy. He’s out surfing and walking his dog.

If you found yourself in trouble, who would you want to come out and rescue you?
If the surf was huge?
If I had to choose, Azza Graham.

As a seasonal lifeguard you are currently on your winter off. What have you been up to?
We have three and a half months off over winter. We work pretty hard for nine months, then have three off to party and play. Big kids school holidays! I just got back from six weeks in Indo with Luke, Mouse and Itchy.

What do you have planned for the upcoming months?
The coming months will be busy for me, with the lifeguard season starting back up in September. I'm also organising the Bondi Big Paddle 2010 with Itchy. It's a paddle race for ocean ski's, paddle boards and SUP's from Bondi to Wedding Cake Island and back, on the 12th of December. There will also be a ‘dash for cash’ for surfboards up to 6'6’, with big cash and prizes for all divisions. It should be a great day, so stay tuned to Frothers for more details. See you on the beach!