The girlfriend of snowboarder Alex Pullin saw a commotion on her local beach and watched as a tragedy unfolded, only to learn the victim was the love of her life when the body was brought to shore.
The two-time World Championship and three-time Olympian was spearfishing off Palm Beach on the Gold Coast on Wednesday when he suffered a shallow water blackout and drowned.
His partner Ellidy Vlug arrived on the shore as lifeguards were rushing to save Pullin’s life.
The model and businesswoman was with her mother and both expressed their hope the champion snowboarder was not the victim, sources at the scene said.
Shattered girlfriend of snowboarder Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin (pictured together) watched as lifeguards and paramedics scrambled to save a man in the water
His partner Ellidy Vlug arrived on the shore after paramedics and lifeguards were already rushing to save Pullin’s life
The devastated girlfriend of snowboarder Alex Pullin only realised the love of her life had died because she wanted to see what the fuss was about on the Gold Coast beach
Mr Pullin is pictured spearfishing just a week before tragedy struck
But when Pullin’s body was brought to shore Ms Vlug learned the horrifying truth, The Courier Mail reported.
Pullin, who was affectionately known as Chumpy, was a keen spear fisherman and had been free-diving on the 19th Ave reef at about 10.30am Wednesday.
The experienced diver suffered what medics believe was a shallow water blackout and could not be revived.
Gold Coast Police senior sergeant Chris Tritton said another spear fisherman saw Pullin unresponsive on the ocean floor and alerted a nearby surfer to get help from lifeguards.
Lifeguards came out on a jet-ski and hauled Pullin to the beach with the help of surfers.
Pullin pictured with his beloved Kelpie puppy, Rummi relaxing in bed
The couple began dating in 2012 after a chance encounter at a mutual friend’s party
The couple were living on the Gold Coast along with their beloved Kelpie puppy, Rummi
Paramedics performed CPR on him for about 45 minutes before officially declaring him dead.
‘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.’
The 32-year-old started dating Ms Vlug back in 2012, when she was 21 years old.
They had known each other for years prior through similar social circles on Sydney’s northern beaches, but it wasn’t until they were at a party with a mutual friend that they first hit it off.
‘We just started talking and I called her out for a dance,’ Pullin explained during a 2016 interview with Buro.
‘[It was] heaps old school… Dragged her out on the dance floor’. But Ms Vlug later learned he’d tried to pursue her long before that first encounter.
‘Chumpy reckons he tried a few months beforehand but I didn’t really know,’ she said.
World champion snowboarder Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin (pictured with his girlfriend Ellidy Vlug) has drowned while spearfishing on the Gold Coast
The couple met at a party for a mutual friend in 2012, but had known of each other for years prior
Pullin captioned this image, shot last week: ‘Unreal day in the ocean! Whales singing & breaching all around us, hanging with great people, plus bringing home plenty of fish for the week’
The two time world gold medallist and three-time Olympian was spearfishing off the coast of Palm Beach when he suffered a shallow water blackout and drowned
The couple were living on the Gold Coast along with their beloved Kelpie puppy, Rummi.
Just two weeks ago, Ms Vlug shared a sun-drenched video of Pullin and Rummi cuddling in bed, and another video on Wednesday morning when the pup woke up from a nap.
She’d previously said in an Instagram post celebrating a friend’s wedding that she was excited to walk down the aisle.
The swimwear model, who is now 27, also runs her own boutique vacation business on the Gold Coast, and ‘prides herself’ on supporting local businesses within her tight knit community.
The couple had withstood years of long distance when Pullin’s career dragged him away from Australia.
‘Everything just sort of clicked,’ Pullin previously explained.
Champion snowboarder Alex Pullin was living a simple life on the Gold Coast with his model girlfriend before he tragically died in a freak accident on Wednesday
He would write and perform his own original songs and explained music had been a lifelong passion
They withstood years of a long distance relationship while Pullin was travelling internationally for work
Pullin said Ms Vlug’s chilled nature and laidback qualities made the relationship easier than he thought it could be
Pullin, a snowboarder for all seasons
By Australian Associated Press
With parents who owned a ski store in the foothills of Victoria’s Mt Buller, Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin had a handy head start in the world of winter sports.
He coupled that with a powerful riding style, calm demeanour and Formula One race tactics to become one of the pre-eminent snowboard cross exponents in the world.
The 32-year-old from Mansfield, who died on the Gold Coast on Wednesday after drowning in a spear-fishing accident, was part of the new breed of Australian winter sports stars.
Pictured: Pullin with Rummi, the puppy he shared with his long term partner
Following on from the likes of Steven Bradbury and Alisa Camplin, who famously secured Australia’s first Winter Olympics gold medals within 48 hours of each other in 2002, Pullin too would often be the last man standing.
But in a sport often described as motocross on snow, he actually left as little as he could to chance.
He excelled in drafting; patiently riding the icy course full of banked turns and jumps before executing daring overtaking manoeuvres when he deemed the time right.
His strategic approach helped net him nine World Cup gold medals and two world championships. Between 2011 and 2013, he dominated the circuit and appeared to make a crap shoot predictable.
But in a sport that can see six racers sometimes jostle in corridors as narrow as 10 metres, there are always going to be bumps along the way.
Unfortunately for Pullin, his came at the Winter Olympics.
A relative unknown at the 2010 Games in Vancouver, Pullin briefly captured the nation’s attention when he qualified first for the head-to-head racing before crashing out in his heat.
Four years on and with two world championships under his belt, he was Australia’s flag-bearer and favourite at the Sochi Games.
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
It ended in a misty haze on the Rosa Khutor course where he was eliminated in the quarter-finals.
In 2018, his rough ride looked over when he went all the way through to the decider in South Korea, only to finish sixth as teammate Jarryd Hughes snatched silver.
While results thinned out after the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, he battled on and had been competing on the World Cup circuit as recently as March in Europe.
Home-schooled on a yacht as a child with his sister Emma as his parents sailed the world between snow seasons, the guitar-loving surfer had something of alternate upbringing, but he told AAP in 2011 it made him.
‘At three or four, I would be taking a dinghy into the beach by myself. There was never that protection. We learned to be independent. We got taught the right way to do things,’ he said.
‘So when I started going overseas (at the age of 15 by himself to snowboard), it wasn’t a big deal.
‘I knew it was a gift; a real opportunity.’
He said Ms Vlug’s chilled nature and laidback qualities made the relationship easier than he thought it could be, given some of his colleagues had warned him of the difficulties associated with long distance relationships.
‘We’re actually quite different. It’s fine. I love the simplicity of that, and not overthinking it. Today it’s fine, and we’ll see what tomorrow’s like. Nothing ever seems too hard. It’s what we want,’ he said.
Ms Vlug agreed, and said it made them value their time together more.
‘We can just go and do fun adventure stuff. It’s probably my favourite thing about us. If you didn’t have that, what would you do together?
‘Alex also 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.’
World champion snowboarder Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin (pictured with his girlfriend Ellidy Vlug) drowned while spearfishing on the Gold Coast
He would write and perform his own original songs and explained music had been a lifelong passion
Australia’s Alex Pullin (front) carries the national flag as he leads his team into the opening ceremony for the XXII Olympic Winter Games in 2014
The 27-year-old was at the beach on Wednesday when Pullin’s body was dragged to shore.
Pullin was still at the height of his career and pursuing his love of music, performing live gigs throughout Queensland.
He would write and perform his own original songs and explained music had been a lifelong passion.
‘Music has been a big part of my life. From listening to my mum play guitar and sing when I was a kid to writing albums and playing at music festivals in Australia,’ he explained on his personal blog.
‘These days, I just love writing new music and playing all the instruments myself, to just challenge my skills and see what I can come up with.’
The couple lived a low key life on the Gold Coast and Pullin was pursuing his passion for music
An on-duty lifeguard then came out on a jet-ski and hauled Pullin to the beach with the help of surfers
Pullin was Australia’s flag bearer at the 2014 Winter Olympics, the second time he represented his country at the highest level
Just two weeks ago Pullin shared footage of himself diving and spear fishing in Gold Coast waters.
‘Unreal day in the ocean, whales singing & breaching around us,’ he wrote. ‘Hanging with great people plus bringing plenty of fish for the week.’
The champion snowboarder created history in 2012 when he became the first Australian winter sport athlete to defend a World Championship title.
He was awarded Athlete of the Year that season by Ski and Snowboard Australia following a successful campaign on the international circuit.
By the 2017/2018 season, he was still at his peak and won double gold at the World Cup in Argentina, only to become Australia’s best performing athlete yet again in 2019 when he placed ninth at the Snowboard Cross World Championships.
While he’d dreamt of competing as a snowboarder since he was just eight years old, surfing and being in the ocean was always his second passion. Pro surfer Kelly Slater has forever been one of his idols.
Ms Vlug was waiting on the beach when Pullin’s body was pulled to shore on Wednesday
Divers on Palm Beach on Wednesday when Pullin drowned while spearfishing
Pullin (left) was an experienced free diver and was fishing by himself when he drowned
He began skiing at just three years old, encouraged by his parents who owned and ran a ski/snowboard shop in Mansfield, Victoria, where he was born.
Pullin spent every off season in the water, even more so after relocating to the Gold Coast with his partner.
‘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.
He most recently competed in a World Cup event in Sierra Nevada, Spain, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down international competition.
Australian sportsman Wendell Sailor led tributes to Pullin after word spread on Wednesday.
‘I can’t believe this terrible news – one of the nicest humans I’ve ever met – very sad news,’ Sailor wrote.
Just two weeks ago Pullin shared footage of himself diving and spear fishing in Gold Coast waters
He most recently competed in a World Cup event in Sierra Nevada, Spain, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down international competition
Pullin’s death is the second spearfishing tragedy this week
The brother of a spearfisher mauled by a shark said he watched his ‘best mate’ die in his arms from horrific injuries.
Matthew Tratt, 36, was attacked by a by a great white shark on Fraser Island on Saturday afternoon while spear fishing with his brother Rob Tratt.
Mr Tratt managed to drag his brother up onto rocks on the headland where bystanders and an off-duty doctor and nurse tried to revive him for nearly an hour.
Other fishermen helped pull him from the water and applied a tourniquet to his badly mauled left leg before paramedics arrived.
Mr Tratt watched his brother bleed to death, but said Matt died doing what he loved.
Matthew Tratt (right), 36, was attacked by a by a suspected great white shark at Fraser Island on Saturday afternoon while spear fishing with his brother. Pictured with his wife Kayla
‘My brother, he died in my arms, doing his favourite passion – spearfishing. And I don’t think I could’ve been with a better person,’ he told 9News.
‘He’s an outdoors man and a family man … he lived a good life and went out in spectacular style.’
Mr Tratt said he looked away for a split second before Matthew was attacked by the shark.
‘I actually dived down … and I couldn’t dive down deep enough, I’m inexperienced, I can only hold my breath for about nine seconds or something,’ he said.
‘He was just laying on the bottom and I looked away for a second and next thing you know it’s all happening.’
Mr Tratt said he didn’t realise there had been a shark attacked until they surfaced and Matthew told him.
‘He just said to me, ‘there’s been a shark attack’ and I said ‘are you okay?’,’ Mr Tratt said.
Before the attack, a fisherman asked the pair how they could get in knowing sharks were abundant in the area.
‘If I thought about it, I’d probably just get too scared and not go in the water. We entered those waters fully knowing the risks, it’s just part of life,’ Mr Tratt said.
Mr Tratt, an air-conditioning contractor from Buderim, leaves behind two children and his wife Kayla (right)
The brothers and their families were visiting Fraser Island after their holiday abroad was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
‘We were supposed to do a holiday to Bali and all that, so when they opened up the doors to a bit of travel we decided we were going to hit Fraser Island as a family,’ Mr Tratt said.
‘Me and my brother and his two kids and our wives. We were out there just enjoying ourselves. Holiday of a lifetime … Really was.’
Mr Tratt said despite the horrific incident, his brother wouldn’t have supported shark culling.
‘We entered those waters fully knowing the risks, it’s just part of life,’ he said.
Matthew, an air-conditioning contractor from Buderim on the Sunshine Coast, leaves behind two children and his wife Kayla.
Matthew’s friend Wayne Stievano and fishing buddy said he wished he could have been there to save him.
‘Still can’t believe you’re gone Matthew Tratt,’ he posted on Facebook.
‘You were taken way too early, you always had my back in the water, I only wish I could have been there today to have yours.
‘We love you and miss you buddy, until we meet again, rest easy mate.’
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk described the death as ‘brutal’ and paid her condolences to his family.
Matthew Tratt, 36, was attacked by a shark off Indian Head at about 2pm on Saturday while spear fishing with his brother. Pictured with his widow Kayla
‘It’s once again a reminder that, especially around that Fraser Island area, it is home to a lot of sharks, and great whites,’ she said in Sunday.
Fraser Coast Mayor George Seymour said the local community was deeply saddened by the tragedy.
‘This a tremendously sad day for our community,’ Mr Seymour wrote on Facebook.
‘Our deepest condolences go to this young man’s family and friends.
‘The loss of a young life with his future before him is a tragedy beyond words and we share their sadness and grief.’
It is Australia’s fourth fatal shark attack this year.
Last month, Gold Coast surfer Rob Pedretti, 60, died after he was mauled by the three-metre white shark at Salt Beach at South Kingscliff in northern NSW.
A shark also killed 23-year-old Queensland wildlife ranger Zachary Robba in April off North West Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef.
Experienced diver Gary Johnson, 57, was killed by a shark near Cull Island in Esperance on Western Australia’s south coast in January.
A report will be prepared for the coroner.