Jesse Polock… Maroubra’s Lovable Rogue
During the month The Beast caught up with charismatic Maroubra boy, Waverley lifeguard and lovable rogue, Jesse Polock.
What was it like growing up in Maroubra?
Growing up in Maroubra was the best thing ever. It’s my home and it will always be my home and I wouldn’t want to grow up anywhere else.
Being a young bloke, was it as tough in Maroubra when you grew up as it was when some of the older boys were growing up there?
Growing up in Maroubra these days compared to when I were growing up there, I think the kids have got it a lot easier. When we were younger we used to get a lot of grommet abuse. Kids these days get nothing. We copped a lot of grommet abuse and the guys that are older than us copped a lot too, but it’s changed a bit down there now. I think you give kids grommet abuse they go home and tell their mums and dads.
What did grommet abuse involve back when you were growing up?
It’s heavy, you know, it’s not a good thing, but it definitely makes you a tougher person when you grow up. We copped everything from getting tied up to poles in the nude to all sorts of stupid shit. It was pretty crazy.
I suppose when any of the older boys asked you to do something you pretty much had to do it, didn’t you?
Yeah, pretty much. You respected them so whatever the older boys used to say we used to do. We used to get carpet glue on the face, eat dog poo, everything. I’ve done a bit of everything.
Are you still living down in Maroubra?
Yeah, still living in Maroubra. I was living with my mate Kane but I just moved home because I’m going to go to Bali in winter to chase a few swells.
So you haven’t been lured to Bondi by the bright lights and pretty girls?
No. I love working here at Bondi, I’ve met some amazing people over here and it’s a really good job, but I would never move away from Maroubra.
Do you have any favourite local haunts?
I used to go to Lido’s Cafe down the beach for a coffee but they’re shut now so I go to the bakery down at Maroubra. It’s grouse. And Moi makes a good juice when she hasn’t got the shits with me. It just depends on if I owe her money or not. If I don’t owe her money I get a good juice but if I owe her money she just loses it at me.
Do you hang out in the cafes of Bondi now that you’re a Bondi Rescue superstar?
You won’t catch me in a cafe down at Bondi. You might get me at Sejuiced on the way to work but that’s about it.
You first came to prominence as the understudy of infamous Bra Boy Koby Abberton in the Bra Boys movie. How did appearing in that movie affect your life?
That gave me a big foot in the door. I had a lot of fun travelling when we were showing the movie all around the world and I got to meet some crazy people, some people who will be friends for the rest of my life. It was a good time.
Are you still good mates with Koby?
Yeah, I’m still really good mates with Koby. He’s actually overseas snowboarding at the moment so he’s still living life to the fullest.
Since the movie came out, the Bra Boys have generally been in the paper for good reasons; what do you think it is that has changed the public perception of the Bra Boys ‘surf gang’?
A lot of people used to think of Maroubra as this gang affiliated beach where all bad stuff used to happen, but that was only really because there was one fight with the police a long time ago. There are a lot of really talented people coming out of Maroubra. You’ve got the guys that people know about like Sutto (John Sutton) and Reni (Maitua) playing NRL, Marky (Mathews) and Koby (Abberton) surfing big waves around the world and Richie (Vaculik) competing in the UFC, and then there are a lot of the boys that people don’t know about who are really successful in business, whether they’re carpet layers, carpenters or work in the city. That’s the thing that people don’t really know about Maroubra. Everyone in Maroubra works and battles on.
So you’re actually a good bunch of blokes?
Yeah, we are a good bunch of blokes. We’re a good bunch of good looking blokes.
Do you still get out and chase big waves or do you just stick to the shorey at Bondi these days?
I chase waves as much as I can. The last few years when I’ve surfed big waves I’ve got hurt. I broke my back, got stitches and did my knee, so I’ve been a bit chalky, but it’s what I grew up doing, it’s what I love the most and even if I keep getting hurt I’m still going to do it. Fingers crossed I don’t put myself in a wheelchair or something.
Do you get scared?
Every time you surf a big swell, the night before you’re shitting yourself, but when the time arrives it’s all about wanting the bragging rights of getting the biggest wave or the biggest barrel. I’m an adrenaline junky so I like the feeling of not knowing if I’m going to make it or not, of maybe getting the best wave of my life.
How long do you reckon the stoke lasts after you catch an absolute monster?
If you get a really good one it hangs around for a fair while. I tend to brag for a bit longer than usual, but if you get a good one you’re allowed to brag.
You’ve had a few run ins with the law over the years; are you on the straight and narrow these days?
Yeah, I’ve been in trouble with the law a bit more than a normal person. I made a couple of stupid decisions and obviously I regret that, but it’s in the past so there’s nothing I can change about it. I’m all about the present and the future. I definitely won’t be doing any of that stupid stuff anymore, so I try to forget about it.
Do you still get people judging you because they know a bit about your past?
Definitely. I think there are heaps of people out there who still judge me, but I think where ‘Bondi Rescue’ has helped me out a lot is that it shows people who I really am. People can actually see into my life a bit and see that I’m not actually an idiot. I’m a nice kid.
When did you first get the gig as a Waverley Council lifeguard?
I was actually sitting at my nan’s place and I was going through the court process after getting into some trouble and things weren’t looking too good. It was looking like I was going to go to jail. I didn’t have a job and my aunty said to me, “Would you ever be a lifeguard?” And I said, “Yeah, I’d love to be a lifeguard. I’ve grown up around the water my whole life, I think I’d be good at it.” I was lucky enough that my cousin’s really good friends with one of the lifeguards, Dean Gladstone, and Deano got me a meeting down at the beach. I started training and that summer I was the new trainee at Bondi.
When was that?
Three years ago. Back in 2011, I think.
Were any of the other lifeguards wary of you because of your Bra Boys reputation?
None of them ever said anything to me but I’m sure there were a lot of people down there that thought that it was a big risk taking me on. Hopefully now they all like me. I classify them all as good mates, so I hope I’m their mate too.
Do you use your reputation to scare some of the young blokes coming through?
No, no way in the world, mate. Everyone who knows me knows I’m just a very nice, gentle person. I’m a lovable rogue.
Do you think working around old heads like Harry Nightingale has been a good, settling influence on you?
Yeah, definitely. Before I worked here I used to see the big H-man on Bondi Rescue and I’m glad to call him a good friend now. He has helped me a lot, telling me about all the jungle trips that he has to G land and just giving me advice on life. A lot of people don’t really get to get that off people like him, so I’m lucky to have him to tell me a few things about life.
What’s the best part of the job of being a lifeguard?
I like driving the jet skis; everyone would know that at work. You do get to see a lot of good looking women, but I just like the lifestyle – waking up, going to the beach, setting up the beach, putting the flags in with just your boardies on, jumping in the water – you can’t get a better job than that.
Is it good working with a bunch of your mates?
Not many people can say that they go out and get on the drink and socialise with the people they work with. If it’s a busy day at Bondi we will all go and have a beer after work or go and get dinner. I don’t think there are many occupations out there where you can do that.
What’s the worst part of the job?
There are some tough things you have to deal with. Obviously we have to deal a bit with suicide, and that’s not the easiest thing to deal with. Having everyone around to talk about it helps you get through it though. And sometimes when you do a spinal and you know that the person’s never going to walk again, that’s pretty hard to deal with.
Speaking of suicide, last year you and fellow lifeguard Trent ‘Maxi’ Maxwell rode jet skis from Sydney to Cairns, stopping into Headspace centres along the way to talk about mental health and suicide prevention. Can you tell us a little bit about ‘The Ride’, as it was known?
The reason I did the jet ski ride was because I’ve lost a couple of really close friends to suicide and a lot of people don’t hear too much about it and don’t understand how much it affects the family of the deceased. Having to deal with it at work, it’s something that I’d never ever want anyone to have to do, but if we don’t do it no one’s going to do it. It’s just crazy to think what their families are going through, and that really, really hurts me inside. So Maxi and I were sitting down at Bondi one day and we were talking about what we could do to encourage people to talk about mental health issues and to maybe help prevent people from taking their own lives. Maxi was like, “Let’s ride jet skis from here to Brisbane,” and I was like, “Yeah, sweet.” Then Maxi went and had a meeting and somehow he changed it from Brisbane to Cairns and he called me and he goes, “Oh, we’ll go to Cairns instead of Brisbane,” and me just being who I am was thinking, “Cairns is only half an hour past Brisbane; let’s do that then.” Then I found out that Brisbane’s not even halfway! It was a good adventure and I met people on that trip that will be friends to me for the rest of my life. It was great to see people who have suffered from mental health issues and have tried to commit suicide in the past, turn their lives around when they’ve been around good, supportive people.
Has the feedback been awesome since?
Yeah, it’s unreal. It’s still in post-production because Liam Taylor, the director/producer, has just been really busy.
Is there an expected release date of the documentary?
Not yet. We’ve been in talks with a couple networks and fingers crossed it turns out good and those guys take it and we can spread the word not only in Australia but around the world.
You and Maxi have also started a bit of an entrepreneurial venture over the last couple of months; can you tell us about that?
In life, obviously I love being a lifeguard, but I also want to have my own businesses too and it would be good to be successful. So Maxi and I, off the back of doing The Ride, have started our own business called Ocean Men. The website is www.oceanmen.com.au and it’s just me and Maxi going around and teaching young kids the skills that we have in the water, from doing jet ski lessons and surf lessons to private lifeguarding and surf safety talks. We also want to do corporate bonding things with bigger companies to help them work better as a team. We want to go and tell our story about how both of us worked with each other to get all the way to Cairns, because if we didn’t work together there was no way in the world we would have made it. There were times when I wanted to stop and there were times when he wanted to stop and we just got through as a team and we made it to Cairns in one piece. There were a lot of people were saying I couldn’t make it because of my back (Jesse fractured his spine while surfing the notorious ‘Ours’ surf break), but we proved a lot of people wrong and made it 3,500 kilometres up the east coast.
Who’s the most annoying of your fellow lifeguards?
I’d most probably have to say myself. I’d hate to be locked in a room with me for nine hours. My voice gets pretty annoying.
Have you found that you’ve bonded with any of your fellow lifeguards who you might not have expected to become good mates with?
Before I worked over here I didn’t really know many of the boys because I never ever left Maroubra. I get on unreal with everyone though. Obviously I’m really close to Maxi. Before I worked here I did know Maxi but not very well, and we’ve become really good friends.
Did you get any grief from the boys down at the Randwick beaches for not being a lifeguard down there, your home beaches?
I’d never work at Randwick. I think you should keep your work away from your home and I think the lifeguard service at Waverley is the best there is.
That answer will cause some trouble. Are the lifeguards in general better in Waverley?
Yeah, we’re definitely better lifeguards.
Bondi Rescue is about to hit the airwaves again for season number nine; what can we expect from the new season?
Season 9 of Bondi Rescue is going to be a really good season. There’s going to be a lot of funny stuff in it and obviously a lot of good rescues. I’m looking forward to watching it and it goes to air on March 3 on Channel Ten.
Nicola Atherton recently joined the Waverley lifeguard service. It’s the first time in about five or six years that there’s been a female lifeguard down at Bondi; how is she going?
When I heard Nicola was going to work down at Bondi I knew straight away she was going to be good. Obviously having that surfing background helps (Nicola is a former world junior surfing champion). She hasn’t done one thing wrong. She’s been put in some really heavy situations already and she’s dealt with them really well. I’m really proud of her and I think she’s going to be a really good lifeguard in years to come.
Do you reckon she’s got a few of the boys covered?
Yeah, definitely. She’s got heaps of the boys covered. She’s got me covered, I tell you that.
Did anyone have any apprehensions about a female joining the service, because obviously it is pretty tough work?
A lot of people would think that she’d be put in some situations that she might not be able to deal with, but she’s already proven everyone wrong with what she’s done this year. She’s dealt with some crazy situations and dealt with them well, and everyone’s been there for her. It’s unreal.
Will we be getting to see much of your head on Bondi Rescue this season?
I don’t know. You might get to see my ugly mug a bit. This year we’ve got a new trainee down here, Harrison, from New Zealand. I think he will be a big star on it this year. He’s a funny kid, he’s got a great personality and I think he’s going to go a long way with being a lifeguard because he comes to work and just gets the job done.
You mentioned that you reckon you’d be in jail if you hadn’t got the lifeguard gig. From an employment perspective, do you have any other skills? What would you be doing if you weren’t a lifeguard?
I was doing a lot of surfing before getting the lifeguard gig so that would have been a big goal for me, but when I got in trouble I lost a lot of my sponsors and that didn’t help me out. I don’t know what I’d be doing. I’d probably be a carpet layer like everyone else in Maroubra.
Do you have a significant other or are you a single gentleman?
I’m a single gentleman.
Has your B grade celebrity status been helpful with the ladies?
Nah, I’ve had no luck. And I wouldn’t call myself B-grade, I’m more like Z-grade.
Do chicks dig tatts?
Definitely not. I haven’t got any chicks from my tatts so you’d have to ask other people.
Who are your role models?
I have a lot of role models. Growing up surfing I always wanted to be a big wave surfer like Koby. I look up to a lot of people, particularly my family and friends who have done well in life after they’ve had times of struggle, but they just get through it. It’s good to see people who have made mistakes but come back from them.
Do you support any charities?
Yeah, look, I do ambassador work for Headspace and I absolutely love it. They’re a great bunch of people. And I try to jump on board with anything that fellow lifeguard Matt Dee has going on with his FTW stuff.
In an ideal world, what does the future hold for Jesse Polock?
Mate, I don’t know; I couldn’t even tell you. I’m definitely going to give it a big crack and try and do my best, and hopefully I don’t stuff up in any way. I think I’ve got my head screwed on. I’m going to just stick with being a lifeguard and do the right things and move forward in life.
Season 9 of Bondi Rescue goes to air on Monday, March 3 at 8pm on Channel Ten.