Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin’s neighbour chatted to him about spearfishing just hours before his tragic death, but was soon forced to deliver the devastating news that he was missing.
The Olympic snowboarder went free diving in Palm Beach on the Gold Coast – like he did most mornings – on Wednesday, but suffered a shallow-water blackout and never surfaced.
Belinda Anderson, who lived next door to Pullin and his long term partner Ellidy Vlug, has now penned a touching tribute to the 32-year-old ‘lover of life’.
She explained how he had taken her own sons under his wing and shared photos of them together by the beach.
On the morning of his death, Pullin spoke to Ms Anderson about his plans for the day.
Belinda Anderson, who lived next door to Pullin and his long term partner Ellidy Vlug penned a tribute to the 32-year-old ‘lover of life’ alongside several photos of him with her sons (pictured)
World champion snowboarder Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin (pictured with his girlfriend Ellidy Vlug) has drowned while spearfishing on the Gold Coast
Champion snowboarder Alex Pullin was living a simple life on the Gold Coast with his model girlfriend (pictured, together) before he tragically died in a freak accident on Wednesday
So a few hours later when Ms Anderson saw in a local Facebook group that a man in his 30s was pulled from Palm Beach Reef unconscious, she immediately sought out Ms Vlug.
‘I went over and showed his partner the message as I knew he was out there,’ Ms Anderson explained.
Ms Vlug previously told Daily Mail Australia she returned from a walk to her neighbour at her door telling her there had been an accident.
She rushed down to the beach with her mother, where she was told by first responders that the victim was in fact her partner of eight years.
‘The world lost an amazing human today,’ Ms Anderson wrote in the tribute.
‘He was loved and admired by so many. He passed away doing what he loved’.
Belinda Anderson, who lived next door to Pullin and his long term partner Ellidy Vlug later penned a touching tribute to the 32-year-old ‘lover of life’ (pictured, Pullin with her two sons)
Pullin (pictured, left and right with his girlfriend) said her chilled nature and laidback qualities made the relationship easier than he thought it could be, given some of his colleagues
Ms Anderson said her sons both admired Pullin (left) and looked forward to their adventures and catch ups with the two time World Championships gold medallist and three time Olympian
WHAT IS A SHALLOW WATER BLACKOUT?
A shallow water blackout is the loss of consciousness due to a lack of oxygen while underwater. Normally, the victim is holding their breath.
It can affect anyone – even exceptionally fit and healthy people – when they have held their breath for too long underwater.
Ms Anderson said her sons both admired Pullin and looked forward to their adventures with the two time World Championships gold medallist and three time Olympian.
‘You would never have known he had achieved what he had,’ she explained.
‘He was so humble, so down to earth, and so selfless.
‘He will be missed by so many from all around the world… I always walked away feeling uplifted and inspired by his wisdom and outlook on life’.
The touching tribute is aligned with memories shared by his many friends and loved ones since his death.
Ms Vlug said he was a family man ‘through and through’ who enjoyed the simple life he’d come to know on the Gold Coast, surrounded by his friends, Ms Vlug’s family and their one-year-old Kelpie puppy, Rummi.
She said Pullin was obsessed with learning new skills and was a ‘jack of all trades’.
In the winter he snowboarded, in the summer he surfed, and he spent the seasons in between learning new sports.
Over the years, Pullin had mastered holding his breath for long periods of time, and regularly went spear fishing either on his own or with mates.
The only concern Ms Vlug and Pullin’s family ever had was he could potentially come face-to-face with a shark.
Mourners gathered on the beach (pictured on Thursday) with a small tribute to Pullin following his tragic death
The couple shared a Kelpie puppy named Rummi (pictured together) and were hoping to make the Gold Coast their forever home
Pullin (pictured at the Winter Olympics in 2018) won gold medals at the 2011 and 2013 World Championships and represented Australia at the 2010 and 2014 Olympics
‘When he told me he’d decided to go for a dive, I was just like ”epic, love you, watch out for sharks”,’ Ms Vlug explained.
‘I always say that.’
It’s only been 48 hours since his death, and Ms Vlug and the couple’s friends and family are all still in shock.
‘I don’t know what I’m going to do without him,’ she said.
But the 28-year-old model and business owner is determined to make him proud.
The couple were ‘parents’ to one-year-old Rummi, their beloved Kelpie puppy, and Ms Vlug said Pullin absolutely adored her.
‘He was a family man through and through. Me, and his sister and parents and Rummi were his world,’ she said.
The experienced spearfisher suffered what medics believe was a shallow water blackout just before 10.30am and could not be revived.
Former Home and Away actor Lincoln Lewis (bottom), who was also close friends with Pullin (top), said the news had left him ‘lost for words’
Pullin (pictured) is seen with his beloved Kelpie puppy, Rummi, who he shared with his long-term girlfriend
Australian Olympian Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin (pictured, left) was comforted by his model girlfriend Ellidy Vlug (right) after his event was cancelled at Sochi in 2014
Pullin with Rummi (pictured) the puppy he shared with his long term partner. The couple were planning to settle down and start a family
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.
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.
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.’
Pullin (pictured) was Australia’s flag bearer at the 2014 Winter Olympics, the second time he represented his country at the highest level
The couple (pictured) began dating in 2012 after a chance encounter at a mutual friend’s party
Local physiotherapist Scott Johnstone went for a quick swim before saying goodbye to Pullin at a makeshift memorial with flowers (pictured on Thursday)
Police said officers were called to the beach just before 11am and crews remained on the scene well into Wednesday afternoon.
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.
Former Home and Away actor Lincoln Lewis, who was also close friends with Pullin, said the news had left him ‘lost for words’.
‘One of those rare individuals who just lit up every room, never failed to continuously make everyone smile, laugh and just feel like their part of the family,’ he wrote alongside several photos of them together.
‘I wish I had the proper words to say, but what I do know is that I feel so incredibly lucky to have been able to call you a mate and even though you are gone way too soon, the world has been all the better and brighter for having you in it’.
Distraught mourners embrace on the sand of Palm Beach after laying a flower in Pullin’s honour (pictured on Thursday)
Australia’s Alex Pullin (pictured, front) carries the national flag as he leads his team into the opening ceremony for the XXII Olympic Winter Games in 2014
Mr Pullin (pictured) is seen spearfishing just a week before tragedy struck on Wednesday, leaving his family devastated
The couple (picured) met at a party for a mutual friend in 2012, but had known of each other for years prior
Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin’s successful career
Pullin began skiing when he was just three, encouraged by his parents who owned and ran a ski and 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.
‘I was so attracted to competing from a young age. My dad and I used to race to everything,’ he previously 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.’
While he’d dreamt of competing as a snowboarder since getting a board at 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.
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, and become Australia’s best performing athlete yet again in 2019 when he placed ninth at the Snowboard Cross World Championships.
He most recently competed in a World Cup event in Sierra Nevada, Spain, before the coronavirus pandemic shut down international competition.