Legendary six-time world champion ironman Trevor Hendy used to think he was invincible – free to party hard and play up with his buddies and happy to be carried away by his celebrity.
"There was a gang of us who had a drinking and womanising culture," says Trevor, who was in his mid-20s and married to Miss Surf Girl Jacki Dann at the time.
"It was a hero-worship culture. The more you drank the more the hero you were. The looser you were and the funnier you were, the more accepted you were. It was all part of that culture of the '80s and '90s."
Growing up as a shy and humble kid, Trevor, now 51 and working as a successful life coach, candidly admits that as his triumphs as a world-class surf lifesaver grew, he became "a powerful man but also an a---hole".
The surf lifesaving poster boy thought he was bulletproof, believing commentators when they said he was "the guy that every boy wants to be and every girl wants to be with".
"My ego believed all of that," says Trevor, who now realises his addiction to fame was ruining his life and impacting on his body, which was "falling apart".
"I'm a conscious a--- who betrayed those loves and those connections in my life to look good and look better. I put all the love and connection and the approval of my mates and then the approval from society as a higher value than my family."
Warriors in the surf and drinking buddies in the Gold Coast's bars, Trevor and his gang of world champion mates including Grant Kenny, Craig Riddington and Guy Leech were sun-bronzed role models to a generation but in reality he says they were a "gang of brothers" who fed off each other's bad-boy actions.
While he could go for months without drinking in the lead-up to winning a big surf race, afterwards Trevor would binge for days with his buddies, riding a "sugar high" of adoration.
"For a lot of people we were role models and we are all actually really good people who have gone on to live great lives," says Trevor, who also represented Australia in kayaking, in 1998.
"But we were young and living in a time when the winner got the rewards and the recognition and they also got the leave pass. They could do whatever they wanted. They were let off responsibility. We called it 'winning', at least what we thought was winning."
It was his second wife Jo (nee Macdermid), the mother of his two youngest kids Bailey, 21, and Jaali, 16, who pointed out to Trevor his actions weren't making him happy and he was furious with the world.
She told him it was time to mend some relationships with her and with his first wife Jacki, the mother of his two other children, Kristelle, 31, and TJ, 24, who is a current surf lifesaving champion.
"I had to eat tons and tons of humble pie," says Trevor, who recalls the day he called his ex to apologise for the boozing and womanising ways that had so sorely impacted their marriage. "I said, 'Jacki, I'm so sorry. I was a tool,'" he says, still incredulous she has forgiven him.
The Hendy family, known as the First Family of Surfers Paradise, are now a strong unit – Jo and Jacki are good friends and all four kids are back home living with Trevor and Jo.
"It's beautiful and it's challenging to come full circle and be under one roof. It's very special we can all be together," says Trevor, who was named a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for his services to the community and is also current President of the Surfers Paradise Surf Life Saving Club.
Trevor says he has learned to face his demons so he can inspire others through his teen-focused LifeChanger courses and his Boot Camp For The Soul, a 12-week online "interactive life transformation for your soul, body and mind".
Inspiring thousands of people around the world to "get out of their head and into their heart" Trevor also posts talks and advice from his friends like paleo chef Pete Evans.
WATCH: Pete Evans shows his kids how to make paleo crumbed fish tacos. Post continues after video...
Now Trevor travels the country with Jo, giving motivational speeches and helping his wife with her passion, the Sacred Sister Project, which aims to educate, inspire and empower teenage girls, their teachers and parents.
Looking back, he says his reckless days were "exactly what I was meant to go through at that time, with those people. I love and adore them all and can say I've looked at clouds from both sides now.
"And, now, hopefully, I can help people to not make the same mistakes I did."
- PuzzlesThe Australian Women's Weekly June Issue Online Entry
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