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Interview With Ryan Clark… The Boy From Bronte

By Dan Hutton on September 27, 2013 in People

Photo: Andrew Goldie

Photo: Andrew Goldie

Where are you originally from, Whippet?
I’m from Bronte and I’ve resided in Bronte all my life.

Were you born in Bronte?
I was at Paddington so from about three days old I’ve resided in Bronte.

I thought you were from out Coonabarabran way?
Well my dad was originally from Coonabarabran, but thank god he made a good life decision and moved to Bronte before he had me.

How old was he when he came to Bronte?
I think he was in his early 20s. Dad still looks about 40-something so maybe I won’t give away his age, but we’ve been here for a long time.

What do you love about living in the Eastern Suburbs?
It’s got everything. Apart from pretty average waves, it’s got good food, good people, the beach, and there’s a lot going on. I grew up here, all my mates live here and it’s got a lot of opportunities to do a lot of good things.

Could you ever see yourself living anywhere else other than Bronte?
It would be hard. I’d say the only other that I could realistically see myself living is up on the Gold Coast, probably up Currumbin way.

What about Coonabarabran?
I’ve thought about it, but small country towns don’t quite offer enough once you’ve been in the big smoke.

Is there anything about the Eastern Suburbs that gets your goat?
The people that have moved to the area and now think that they’re locals. It’s changed so much since we were kids and some of it’s for the good but some of it’s not for the best. The worst thing is the crowds now. You can’t get a park unless you’ve got $100 in the spare change thing in your car and you can’t get a wave to yourself. Well, I can but most other people can’t.

How old were you when you got your first acting gig?
I was seven years old when I started on Home and Away.

Was that your first gig? Did you do any ads or anything before that?
I did one photo shoot for Palmolive fresh soap and then Home and Away was the first audition I went to. They must’ve thought I smelled nice.

What made you want to get into acting?
I just joined an agency because a couple of other Bronte locals, Gavin and David Stephenson, who are long time friends of mine, were actually on a Cottee’s Cordial commercial and I thought they got to drink free cordial all day and I wanted to do the same. And that was it.

You spent nine years on Home and Away, do you look back fondly on those years?
Yeah, it was unreal. I mean, what kid wouldn’t love it? I got to do some pretty cool stuff, got to travel around a fair bit, went to school about one or two days a week – it was a pretty good start in life and a lot of fun.

Do you keep in touch with any of the cast or crew from Summer Bay?
No, not really. You bump into the odd person or get in touch with them occasionally but I wouldn’t say that I keep in regular contact with anyone.

Did you ever work with Alf Stewart?

What’s the real Alf Stewart like compared to the YouTube star?
He’s a legend. He’s just a good Aussie bloke.

You’ve made a couple of guest appearances since you left the show, but not since 2005. Is there any chance of another comeback or did they kill you off?
No, I’m not dead but it’s been a while now so I don’t know what the chances of going back are. I’d definitely be open to it though; it’s a pretty fun place Summer Bay.

Do you reckon they’d be able to fit you into the budget these days?
Probably. The catering’s pretty good too, so it’s kind of like you get to kill two birds with one stone.

Do you harbour any desires to go back into acting and take the Ryan Clark brand to Hollywood?
I don’t know. I still really enjoy doing stuff in that industry but more presenting sort of stuff. Hosting things or doing a travel or sports show would be the ideal career.

Did you get into Tommy Whitaker’s ear to try to get yourself on the commentary team for the Oakley Pro Bali surf comp?
Mate, I did and luckily for me I was having a baby at that time so it was an easy decision to make not to go over to Bali. If the contest goes ahead next year I’ll be sending my resume for sure.

Did you contact Tom or did Tom contact you?
We just spoke mutually.

Some people have described you as the Dave Wassel of Bronte; is that a fair description?
My balls are nowhere near as big as Dave Wassel’s when it comes to the ocean. He’s a legend that bloke and he has got the best one-liners in the whole of the surf commentary world. If I could come out with anything like him just once I’d be stoked.

You appeared as an Aussie surfer in the Olsen twins’ film ‘Our Lips Are Sealed’ back in 2000; did you get to meet Mary-Kate and Ashley?
I did get to meet the twins. We filmed for about a month all around Sydney and got to do some pretty cool stuff. They hired out the whole of the Harbour Bridge and we climbed that, and we drove jet skis all around the harbour. It was a pretty fun couple of weeks. I was only 16 or 17 at the time so it was a different experience and something I look back on with good memories.

Is it true that your character was like the coolest character in the movie?
According to them at the end. If you watch the movie you will see that my dancing is pretty good at the end so I’ll leave that judgment up to you.

You’re known these days as a lifeguard on Channel 10 reality series Bondi Rescue; how long have you been a professional lifeguard?
I’ve been working down at the beach for ten years now. This is my 10th summer coming up and it’s absolutely awesome. I love it down there. I work with a good bunch of guys and just the job itself is a great lifestyle.

Was that your only employment option given that you only did two days of school a week for nine years?
Pretty much. I spent more time down the beach than half the boys that worked there and Kerrbox said to me: “Mate, you might as well get paid to be here, you spend that much time with us.” So that was sort of it. I went to uni for a year and did a sports management diploma but came back and started lifeguarding and haven’t used the diploma since.

What’s your favourite thing about your job down at the beach?
Successful resuscitations are the best. Besides having a kid, it’s one of the best feelings you can have, to bring someone back from the dead. It’s not that you ‘want’ to be in that situation, but when it happens it’s a pretty good sense of self achievement and a great effort from the whole team that’s involved. The other thing I like is just hanging out with 35 of my mates down at the beach all day, having a hell of a time and getting paid for it.

What’s the most memorable rescue you’ve ever done?
The most memorable rescue I’ve done would be without doubt Timmy Pearson, one of the old long boarders from the Tama/Bronte area. He had a heart attack in the water and we got there and we worked on him for about 15 minutes before we got him back. Doing a resuscitation on someone that I’d known for a long time was pretty intense, and there was a lot of emotion between myself and the boys, but to finally get him back and now see him out in the water surfing again makes it without doubt the best rescue I’ve done.

What’s the worst thing about working down at the beach?
Either Yatesy’s body odour or turning around and forever finding Chappo wearing the uniform. They’re two of the most annoying things, but apart from that there’s nothing bad about it. You’re down the beach all day. It’s a good job.

What do you think about Surf Life Saving Australia’s assault on the lifeguarding function on our beaches?
I don’t think it’s a good idea at all. Without knowing all the facts involved, I know enough to know that what they’re doing is undercutting services that are working well now and saving a lot of lives, and I think with what they’re offering the job won’t be able to be done as competently as it is now.

Were you a clubby back in the day?
I’m not currently a member of a surf club but I used to be a member of Bronte Surf Club. I did Nippers from when I was about four years old. Nippers is awesome for getting a knowledge of the beach and learning how to look after yourself but after that I decided I’d rather join a lifeguard service than do it for free, I guess.

Are you a member of a boardriders club?
I’m a proud member of Bronte Boardriders.

What do you think it is about Bronte that producers such good surfers, given that the waves are generally pretty ordinary?
I think it’s just the competitiveness of all the boys. You’ve got a really good group of guys that live in the area and surf down there and we’ve always had good surfers to look up to, like Kerrbox when he was young, Luke Hitchings, Tommy Whitaker and Azza and Kobe Graham. There are always a lot of good surfers around so I think it pushes everyone to surf better. For somewhere that does have probably the lowest waves on the east coast, it’s just a fun place to be and everyone enjoys each other’s company so you surf a lot together.

Are there any good young surfers from Bronte that people should be looking out for?
There are a couple of the young kids now that are surfing pretty good. Little Ethan Davis, Zac Bloodworth and Luke Faddy are all surfing well. All the boys just seem to be pumping out kids now so maybe in another 13 years or so there will be a whole group of young kids coming through.

What about from the other Eastern Suburbs beaches?
Maroubra and Bondi are probably a bit ahead of us at the moment with good young guys. Pama Davies from Bondi is surfing really good and there’s a young kid from Maroubra called Monty Tate who is ripping and getting some really good results. Whether they’re from Bronte or just from our local area I don’t really care, as long as they do well. If we get any kid from the Eastern Suburbs on the WCT it’s a pretty big achievement.

Do you get recognised more these days as ‘Sam’ from Home and Away or ‘Whippet’ from Bondi Rescue?
It depends who it is doing the recognising. It would probably be more from the lifeguard side of things, but only because when I left Home and Away I didn’t really have any pubes and I definitely didn’t have a beard. I’ve changed a bit since then.

Where does the nickname ‘Whippet’ come from and who was responsible for giving it to you?
I got it when I was about 15 or 16 and it comes from being super skinny like a greyhound racing dog. It wasn’t that I was fast; I was just disgustingly skinny. It really stuck on a trip to Indo with my brother, the Graham brothers and the Stevensons. I think they started calling me it and I think I’ve only heard myself called Ryan about four times ever since.

You recently opened a gym at Bronte with your mates Trent Langlands and Matt Garry; can you tell us about that?
It’s called Lifecycle Fitness and we’re operating out of the old Bronte RSL. It’s just a good group training and personal training facility. We’ve got a great space in the old RSL and it’s just a really good functional training type of environment and a fantastic place to meet people and get fit.

Do you have any famous celebrity clients training with you up there?
Trent is sort of the celebrity trainer up there. We’ve got a few familiar heads getting around, but probably the most famous person we’ve ever had in the door would be Dr Chris Brown, the Bondi Vet. He’s a bit of a weapon, actually. He’s a big, fit, strong human and no one pushes more weight on the sled than Brownie, that’s for sure.

Who gets more star struck, them meeting you or you meeting them?
I don’t really believe in getting star struck, unless I met Pink, then I might go weak at the knees. The way we train in the gym it doesn’t really matter who you are or what your celebrity status is. You come in, you rip in like everyone else and you go home looking like a sweaty, disgusting mess.

There’s been a bit of controversy around about the Bronte RSL development; what are your thoughts on the proposal?
In a way it’s a shame that the RSL is closed down because I think it’s something that had a good history, but the building is definitely serving a good purpose now. We’ve got a good group of members using the gym so I hope they let us keep the gym in there whatever happens.

Do you have any special events coming up at the gym in the near future?
The next big thing coming up is the 30 Day Challenge that we’re doing tarting on October 14. It’s a 30-day full diet and training plan and we’re going to see how much weight people can shed and how much fitter people can get in that month. It’s a good way to set the wheels in motion for a change in lifestyle and to improve your life. Fingers crossed we’ll get a lot of people involved and as a community we can really bring some positive results to a lot of people.

You’ve done the 30 Day Challenge yourself; how did it go?
It was good. It’s not that easy. The first few days are pretty tough, cutting all the junk, adjusting your diet and increasing your training, but in 30 days I had some good results. I lost about 5 kilos and came out the other end feeling much healthier.

You have had a pretty big year with a wedding and the birth of your first child, Nixon; how’s married life and fatherhood treating you?
It’s awesome. It’s better than what I thought it would be. Having a kid is probably the best thing that can ever happen to anyone and I’ve been lucky enough to have an awesome little boy who is reasonably well behaved and sleeps pretty well. It’s definitely been the best year of my life.

Bronte has changed a lot over the years; how do you feel about the changing demographics of the area?
I guess everywhere changes and different people are going to move into the area. I miss the old way, you know, when the kids could just get around and play Street Fighter machines down at the local laundromat and pay $2 for a big thing of hot chips and a slurpee instead of $17 for poached eggs and salmon. It used to be a lot more blue collar back in the day and that’s what gave it its appeal. It’s such an awesome family orientated beach but I guess now the families that come here are buying $5 million houses instead of $500,000 houses. It’s changed, it’s definitely more crowded and in a way it’s not as fun. The kids these days don’t have the freedom and the ability to run amok without getting into proper trouble like we did.

If you could do one thing to make the Eastern Suburbs better, what would it be?
I’d definitely be a lot more lenient on the residents on the parking front. There’s nothing worse than getting a parking ticket when you’re parked at your own house.

What about an artificial reef off the boot at Bondi to keep more surfers away from Bronte?
I’d stick an artificial reef off the reef of Bronte if anywhere; it’s terrible that wave. If it was eco friendly and going to make the waves better I’d be up for anything.

Do you support any charities?
With the boys down the beach we’ve been lucky enough to use the profile that Bondi Rescue has given everyone to do a fair bit of work for charity. We do a lot of stuff for the Sydney Children’s Hospital. I’m actually running a marathon on the September 21 to raise money to buy a new machine for the Children’s Hospital. We also do a bit of work for autism spectrum disorder (ASD) kids. We did the Melbourne Ironman last year to raise a bit of money for autistic kids and their families. We also often do stuff with FTW and Suicide Prevention Australia to help out our good mate and fellow lifeguard Matt Dee. And the other one that’s really close to my heart, because it’s in the local area, is Wairoa School. We do a lot of work for them through the gym, trying to raise money and to donate to them wherever possible.

Who, if anyone, are your role models?
My biggest role models would probably be my parents. Dad is pretty much a legend in my eyes and those of everyone else who has ever met him. He lives life pretty well. He surfs, he skis and he has a good time with the boys, and if I can do that when I’m older I’ll be happy. And who doesn’t look up to their mum?

Do you reckon you will ever be able to emulate your dad’s incredible moustache?
He’s probably got the most suave moustache I have ever seen and if I can grow anything like it when I’m older I’d be stoked, but at the moment mine is just a shit little red caterpillar.

Anyone who follows you on Instagram would know that you’re often on there plugging product; when did you last actually pay for an item of clothing?
I bought a pair of pants the other week up at Cotton On. That was pretty much the last thing I bought. And I had to buy a suit for my wedding. I buy the odd thing but I’m pretty lucky to get looked after by a few companies.

So who are your sponsors?
Reef, Oakley and Body Science sort me out with a lot of stuff, which is pretty awesome.

Do you have any advice for youngsters looking to make a career out of television, lifeguarding or personal training?
Make sure you enjoy it because if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, getting up for work is torture. I’ve been lucky enough to love all three of the jobs or careers that I’ve had so far and it makes getting up at 4:30 in the morning a whole lot easier. Pick something you like, have a good go at it and don’t give up until you succeed.

In an ideal world what does the future hold for Ryan Clark?
Ideally it would involve a successful gym business, still working down the beach, having a few kids running around and still being married to my epic wife Gina. I’m really looking forward to getting to surf with my kids and being able to travel and show them the fun times that I had.