World champion snowboarder Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin has drowned in front of his family on the Gold Coast.
Pullin, 32, was spearfishing on Palm Beach when he suffered a shallow water blackout about 10.30am on Wednesday.
He won gold medals at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships and represented Australia at the 2010, 2014, and 2018 Winter Olympics, where he was the flag bearer.
World champion snowboarder Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin (pictured with his girlfriend Ellidy Vlug) has drowned while spearfishing on the Gold Coast
Pullin won gold medals at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships and represented Australia at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, where he was the flag bearer
Gold Coast Police senior sergeant Chris Tritton said another spear fisherman saw Pullin unresponsive on the ocean floor and got the attention of a surfer.
The surfer paddled to shore to alert lifeguards, who then came out on a jet-ski and hauled Pullin to the beach with the help of surfers.
Lifeguards gave him CPR until Queensland Ambulance paramedics arrived and took over for about 45 minutes, but were unable to save his life.
‘He didn’t have an oxygen mask, we understand he was free diving and spearfishing out on the reef,’ sergeant Tritton said.
‘It appears he was diving alone. There were other divers out there but he was not with a friend.’
Pullin was an experienced free diver and was fishing by himself when he drowned, and just two weeks ago posted a photo of himself spearfishing.
‘Unreal day in the ocean, whales singing and breaching around us,’ he wrote on Instagram.
‘Hanging with great people plus bringing plenty of fish for the week.’
Distraught mourners embrace on the sand of Palm Beach after laying a flower in Pullin’s honour
Mourners walk barefoot to the beach to lay flowers for the deceased snowboard champ
A wellwisher pushes a stake with flowers attached to it into the beach sand next to the flowers
The memorial in honour of Pullin is likely to grow as friends, family, and fans come to pay their respects
Pullin had been dating event manager Ellidy Vlug, 27, for eight years after they met at a party hosted by Aussie surfer Laura Enever where she didn’t know who he was.
‘Heaps old school! Dragged her out on the dance floor,’ he said.
The couple in 2016 told Buro magazine how they make their relationship work when he was away competing half the year.
‘Alex breaks out in song and dance all the time. He has an electric guitar and a couple of acoustic guitars which he’ll just randomly rock out and start singing at the top of his lungs and dancing like crazy. It’s really fun to watch,’ Ms Vlug said.
Pullin was born in Mansfield, Victoria, and began snowboarding aged eight and was the first Australian to defend a winter World Championship title.
Pullin (left) was an experienced free diver and was fishing by himself when he drowned
‘I was so attracted to competing from a young age. My dad and I used to race to everything,’ he wrote on his personal website.
‘The nearest tree or racing home on our bikes. It became second nature to test myself that way.
‘Racing to me is such a pure form of competition, with no judging, its all down to who crosses the line first. An average speed of 70km/h and tops of 100km/h.
‘Racing five other riders through a course of jumps, rollers and banked turns. Its everything I love about snowboarding combined into one competition.’
Pullin said in a Red Bull interview that his nickname ‘Chumpy’ came from his parents when he was a child but he didn’t remember what it meant.
‘It came from my parents mostly, but it stuck with friends and then older crew I was snowboarding with,’ he said.
Pullin holds the Australian flag after receiving one of his World Championships gold medals
Australia’s Alex Pullin reacts to finishing first in his Men’s Snowboard Cross 1/8 Final in the XXII Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, 2014
Pullin was Australia’s flag bearer at the 2014 Winter Olympics, the second time he represented his country at the highest level
Pullin’s childhood ambition was to meet Jimi Hendrix and his heroes were tennis and surfing legends Pat Rafter and Kelly Slater
It was fitting as a snowboard grommet and I probably should have grown out of it at some stage. The meaning of where it all started was lost and has now just become my name.’
He most recently competed in a World Cup event in Sierra Nevada, Spain, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down international competition.
His childhood ambition was to meet Jimi Hendrix and his heroes were tennis and surfing legends Pat Rafter and Kelly Slater.
Police said officers were called to the beach just before 11am and crews remain on the scene.
Pullin’s family were on the beach at the time at witnessed the distressing scene.
Divers on Palm Beach on Wednesday when Pullin drowned while spearfishing
An on-duty lifeguard then came out on a jet-ski and hauled Pullin to the beach with the help of surfers