Haunting texts of late Olympic champ: ‘So keen to score the reef’

Days before his shock Palm Beach spear fishing death, world champion snowboarder Alex "Chumpy" Pullin had been champing at the bit to get back out on the reef.

Gold Coast physiotherapist Scott Johnstone has shared a poignant surfing escapade he had last week with the "humble legend", as well as final messages exchanged between the pair.

Their chance encounter came just days before Alex's spear fishing tragedy at a Palm Beach artificial reef on Wednesday morning when it's believed he suffered a shallow water blackout just after 10.30am.

Alex 'Chumpy' Pullin, free diving. – Photo: Instagram
Alex 'Chumpy' Pullin, free diving. – Photo: Instagram

He was discovered unresponsive on the ocean floor and dragged to shore, but couldn't be revived despite almost an hour of CPR.

Mr Johnstone recounts on Instagram he had met the avid musician and athlete at the same reef just six days before his death.

"Instantly I recognised him and was pretty star struck as I had been a big fan of his career and admired his training methods over the years," he wrote in a post on Wednesday night.

"A true Australian sporting legend and it (was) just me and him trading waves on my favourite wave.

View this post on Instagram

6 days ago I was surfing the beachy at Palm Beach. I saw a few sets start to break at the reef as the tide was dropping. So I paddled out to the reef. I was the only one out there. As I got out there another guy paddled out too. Instantly I recognised him and was pretty star struck as I had been a big fan of his career and admired his training methods over the years. Fucking Chumpy Pullin! A true Australian sporting legend and it is just me and him trading waves on my favourite wave. He was stoked on the water clarity and was talking about how good a day it would be for spear fishing on the reef. He was pumped about this hobby and the feeling it gave to bring home fish to his partner and friends. We spoke about his career and how he was pumped for a shift in direction and for some upcoming projects. We both acknowledged that we were living the dream in Palmy and that it doesn’t get much better than that day. A few others joined us and we had a little crew of about 5 of us on a perfect sunny winters day. We had fun little waves and a great vibe in the water. Chumpy was calling whoever was up into good ones and ripping on his waves. We came in at the same time, caught a few on the beachy and walked up to the showers together. He shook my hand and introduced himself again as “Chumpy”. I thought to myself what an absolute humble legend. I already know who you are man haha I have watched you win World Championships and compete in the Olympics. I have been inspired seeing your training and agility work for years. We spoke during the week about our session, about surfing the reef again and he was quick to offer advice about Spearfishing gear. This story is not about me. I am only telling this to share some first hand experience of the impact this legend had on me personally in 2 hours of knowing him. Condolences to everyone close to him and I am sure this story is one of thousands from a man that will have impacted everyone that has been lucky enough to come into contact with him. Personally, I am going to be calling Palmy Reef “Chumpy’s Reef”. No session will ever be the same again out here with what has happened but I can only try to remember the vibe 🙏

A post shared by Scott Johnstone | Physio (@the_surf_physio) on

"He was stoked on the water clarity and was talking about how good a day it would be for spear fishing on the reef.

"He was pumped about his hobby and the feeling it gave to bring home fish to his partner and friends."

Messages from Alex show how excited he was to hit the beach again, texting: "I'm so keen to score the reef again when it picks up! Man that was fun."

Mr Johnstone said Alex was "pumped" for a shift in career direction, upcoming projects and "living the dream" in Palm Beach.

A memorial on the beach for the champion snowboarder. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)
A memorial on the beach for the champion snowboarder. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

"We came in at the same time, caught a few on the beachy and walked up to the showers together. He shook my hand and introduced himself again as 'Chumpy'. I thought to myself what an absolute humble legend - I already know who you are man, haha, I have watched you win World Championships and compete in the Olympics. I have been inspired seeing your training and agility work for years.

"I thought to myself what an absolute humble legend.

"We spoke during the week about our session, about surfing the reef again and he was quick to offer advice about spearfishing gear.

"Personally, I am going to be calling Palmy Reef 'Chumpy's Reef". No session will ever be the same again out here with what has happened but I can only try to remember the vibe."

 

Originally published as Haunting texts of late Olympic champ: 'So keen to score the reef'


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