The girlfriend of Olympian and Australian snowboarder Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin has paid tribute to him with a heartfelt letter, as the investigation into his death on Queensland’s Gold Coast continues.
The three-time winter Olympian and two-time world champion died at Palm Beach on the Gold Coast in an incident at an artificial reef where Pullin was spearfishing on Wednesday morning.
The 32-year-old Australian snowboarder was found by a snorkeller on the reef and brought ashore.
Lifeguards and Queensland Ambulance Service (QAS) officers attempted to resuscitate Pullin on the beach but were unable to revive him.
A police dive squad attended the scene and a report is being prepared for the coroner.
‘Living his dream’
Pullin’s girlfriend Ellidy Vlug put a note on the front door of the couple’s home to the media, thanking everyone for their thoughts.
“This is a very difficult time for me and I ask that you respect my privacy during this period of grief,” the note read.
“Know that Chumpy absolutely loved life and lived it to the full.
“He lived for us — his family, our puppy Rummi, our amazing friends and the home we made together.
“He was living his dream, our dream.
Floral tributes have been left from those who were mourning the loss of Pullin.
Scott Johnstone met Pullin surfing a week ago at the reef and was emotional as he paid his respects to him at Palm Beach today.
“I’d been a big fan of his for sort of his whole career,” Mr Johnstone said.
Even though the two only met a week ago, they spent a couple of hours surfing and chatting.
“Chumpy was talking, telling me about his passion for spearfishing, like diving and surfing, and just how much we were loving living in Palm Beach,” Mr Johnstone said.
“I’m grateful myself to have that short little memory.”
Chief Superintendent Mark Wheeler said it was an extremely tragic set of circumstances and they wanted to determine what happened.
“Whether there are underlying medical conditions, whether there’s been a miscalculation by someone or something,” he said.
“What we want to do is give closure to the family, give the family answers and also really importantly to see whether there’s any systemic [reasons] to prevent this from happening again.”
Competitive free diver and sports psychologist Ant Williams said from time-to-time a blackout could occur in a sport like spearfishing.
“What happens if someone’s gone down on a dive and has possibly stayed too long at the bottom,” he said.
“Because you’re under a bit of pressure of the water above you, it can mask some of the discomfort from needing to have breath, so maybe staying under a little bit too long.
“Then on the swim back up when all the gas is expanding, then the actual amount of oxygen — what we call partial pressure — can drop, leading you to feeling faint on the swim up or possibly to black out — and that’s what we refer to as a shallow water blackout.”
Mr Williams said he followed three rules for freediving — dive with a buddy of a similar level and never alone, follow a one-up-one-down rule where divers alternate their time on the surface, and dive within your limits.
Pullin was a dual snowboard cross world champion who was the Australian flag-bearer at the Sochi Olympics in 2014.
He represented Australia at three Winter Olympic Games, in Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014 and PyeongChang 2018.
Pullin won gold at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships and claimed bronze at the 2017 edition.
He was also a two-time World Cup winner and won silver at the 2016 Winter X Games.