Heartbroken farewells for ‘bonafide champion’
THREE weeks ago Gold Coast-based world champion snowboarder Alex "Chumpy" Pullin was enjoying a lazy morning in bed with his longtime girlfriend and their cheeky pet kelpie.
Devastated parents Chris and Sally and sister Emma, friends, and fans around the world have now been left dealing with the shock loss of the 32-year-old star in a freak spearfishing drowning mishap on Wednesday.
Pullin, a two-time World Championships snowboard cross gold medallist, was discovered unresponsive on the ocean floor at a Palm Beach artificial reef. Emergency services believe he suffered a shallow water blackout just after 10.30am.
Despite almost an hour of CPR, he couldn't be revived.
It is understood an on-duty lifeguard was on the scene and surfers were involved in carrying him from Palm Beach reef.
Another spear fisherman spotted Pullin unresponsive on the ocean floor and alerted a surfer who paddled to shore and raised the alarm. Lifeguards on a jet ski brought him to the beach.
Pullin was an experienced free diver believed to be spear fishing alone.
Only two weeks ago, he posted an Instagram photo of himself spear fishing off the Gold Coast.
"Unreal day in the ocean, whales singing & breaching around us," he posted.
"Hanging with great people plus bringing plenty of fish for the week."
Two days earlier Alex was cruising the Gold Coast's waterways with girlfriend of 10 years Ellidy Vlug, kelpie Rummi and close friends, fishing, enjoying a beer and laughing.
Just hours after news broke of his death, the couples' latest Instagram posts - of Alex enjoying a day in the sun and Ellidy sharing that lazy winter morning with him - became a place for loved ones to share an outpouring of grief.
"I'm so devastated hearing of your death you dear, beautiful boy," wrote one friend.
"I'm so so sad for Chris and Sal, Emma and your gorgeous girl, and so sorry your life is over so soon.
"Peace to you wherever you are now, and love to your family.
"You have left a legacy and you will be so missed."
Others took to Twitter to share their grief and shock at the death of the "amazing", "bonafide champion".
Sports writer Anthony Sharwood said it was a "tragic loss". "'Chumpy' was an all-round outdoorsman and world champion snowboard cross athlete," he wrote.
"He had a lovely open personality and lived life to the max in all ways."
Born and raised in Victoria, it is understood he had relocated to the southern Gold Coast in recent years where he owned property. Alex started skiing at just three years old - he stepped onto his first snowboard at age eight and quickly found a love for the sport.
At 15, he won the Open Mens FIS Snowboard Australian National Championships, and went on to qualify fifth at the World Cup Boardercross in 2007.
It wasn't until the 2010 Winter Olympics he made himself a household name.
Qualifying fast in both runs, he crashed out in the quarterfinals - a disappointing result, but one he wrote on his website "lit a fire deep inside".
He also wrote and played much of his own music, performing at venues in Australia and around the world while touring competing.
Music was something he said was "just like snowboarding" - it was going to be a part of his life forever.
Among his prized possessions was a Maton guitar gifted to him by his parents for his 15th birthday, and he played in a band called Love Charli with sister Emma and another Mansfield friend.
After missing a podium at the Sochi Winter Olympics in 2014 he returned to a life of weekend surf trips, camping, and teaching model Ellidy how to snowboard.
A self-dubbed "low-key guy", he had been with Ellidy for almost a decade, introduced by friend and surfer Laura Enever, first becoming a couple at a birthday party.
Talking about travelling the world in 2016 he admitted it was tough to leave her behind: "It's tricky. Not so much staying in touch, more so just because I really miss her."
Originally published as Heartbroken farewells for 'bonafide champion'