Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin’s partner revealed the selfless final moments of his life as he rushed out to catch fish hoping to serve their mates a tasty dinner that night, a trip which ultimately led to his devastating death.
The Olympic snowboarder, 32, drowned near a reef off the Gold Coast in July last year after suffering a shallow water blackout while spearfishing in a tragedy that shocked the local community and his tight knit group of friends and family.
Seven’s Spotlight spoke to his family and friends, including partner Ellidy Vlug and his parents, Mick Fanning and Laura Enever, about Chumpy’s life, death and his legacy in the form of baby Minnie Alex.
Ellidy gave birth to their daughter on Monday afternoon, a year and three months following his death after having sperm extracted from his body hours after his death.
The family have described her as ‘the miracle baby’, with the couple having been trying to start a family together before his death.
His partner, from North Narrabeen on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, revealed the pair had squabbled over who would shut the garage the last time she saw him alive, before he raced off to catch fish to serve their guests for dinner.
‘We woke up, we had friends coming from Sydney. Chump had in his head he’d go spearfishing and grab dinner for everyone,’ she told the program.
‘Just before he drove away I was talking to him through the window. We were talking about shutting the garage. He got out of the car and was laughing and grabbing me and said “you’re so ditzy”.
‘All I remember is he got out and gave me one more hug.’
Chumpy grew up on his parents yacht, sailing up and down Australia’s east coast. He was swimming and snorkelling as soon as he could walk.
‘He was such a water baby, before snow was even a thing,’ Ellidy said.
Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin’s partner Ellidy Vlug gave birth to their daughter on Monday, naming her Minnie Alex Pullin – in homage to her late father
Ellidy, 29, decided to use his sperm for IVF treatment to ensure her husband would be a father and could continue his legacy
Ellidy and Chumpy met at professional big wave surfer Laura Enever’s party in Narrabeen nearly a decade ago.
Laura said she ‘knew’ they were going to end up together when the pair stayed behind after the party to help her clean up.
‘When I met him I thought “who’s this snowboarder guy, he’s probably a bong head”,’ Ellidy said.
‘But I was obsessed, I just loved him.’
Ellidy says they kissed that night and it was love from then on.
‘That was a relationship like no other,’ Chumpy’s father Chris said. ‘They were meant for each other.’
‘They had such a connection, such a shared love. Not many people experience it, they had a deeper level to it,’ his mother added.
Chumpy died on July 8, 2020 from what is now believed to be a shallow water blackout, which occurs when someone hyperventilates and expels large amounts of CO2 before a breath-hold dive.
‘When I met him I thought “who’s this snowboarder guy, he’s probably a bong head”,’ Ellidy said. ‘But I was obsessed, I just loved him’
Ellidy gave birth to Minne Alex on Monday, their ‘miracle baby’ who acts as both a beautiful continuation of his legacy and a bittersweet reminder of his absence
Chumpy’s father Chris (pictured left with wife Sally) said he received a ‘hysterical’ phone call from Ellidy moments after arriving at the beach. ‘The news was devastating on so many levels. It’ll never be the same’
Ellidy said she found out about his death when their neighbours saw a Facebook post in a spearfishing group about a man being pulled from the water that fit Chumpy’s description.
‘Our neighbour came to our door, she’s a member of the local spearfishing Facebook page. They looked a bit panicked. They said someone’s been pulled in from the reef this morning, a 30-something-year-old man,’ she said.
‘There was already cameras and police and ambulances there. My mum came running back up the beach. The look on her face kind of said everything without words.’
‘I said “Ellidy that’s Chumpy”. I said “I’m sorry, sweetheart”. She was numb,’ Ellidy’s mother revealed through tears.
‘I’ll never ever get that image out of my head.’
Ellidy’s brother Dave, a professional surfer who bonded closely with Chumpy given their shared love of extreme sports, said he arrived at the beach after a frantic call from his mum.
‘Ellidy was on the ground in a ball, bawling her eyes out. I just hugged her so tight,’ brother Dave said.
‘They pulled the sheet from over his head. I’ll never forget it.’
Chumpy’s father Chris said he received a ‘hysterical’ phone call from Ellidy moments after arriving at the beach.
‘The news was devastating on so many levels,’ he said.
‘It’ll never be the same.’
Ellidy and Chumpy Pullin and dog Rumi smile before his tragic death spearfishing off the Gold Coast in July last year
She revealed the pair had been trying for a baby in the months leading up to his drowning, saying IVF was always on the cards for her because of a low egg count.
‘Every month I was hoping I was pregnant and it was really sad when we got the negative.’
They adopted a kelpie named Rumi despite Chumpy not being a huge dog person, thinking a it was the next stage for their family.
Ellidy said the pair instantly had a connection that quickly saw her pushed to the outer, and can see the pain in Rumi with Chumpy gone.
‘I see this deep sadness. She’s pining for him. I can see it in her face,’ Ellidy said.
‘Sometimes she just looks so sad.’
The 29-year-old partner of Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin (left) said her friends had provided her with ‘unwavering support and love’ in the year after his death
‘It’s really hard to swallow the fact that he’s missing this, he deserves this time, he wanted this, he would have been the best dad’
With the heartbreak of his death still raw, Laura said she was suddenly reminded of a previous situation involving her friends.
She revealed she knew another woman who lost her husband at 30 and always spoke of how she ‘wished she could have retrieved his sperm.’
‘My brother came up to me and said the girls and mum are talking about getting Chumpy’s sperm,’ Ellidy’s said.
‘I didn’t ask any questions, I just said ‘yes go, go now’.
‘Everyone went into this adrenaline, autopilot mode and got s**t done.’
Dr Andrew Davidson took on the challenge, coming in at 9pm, after hours, some 37 hours after his death. There is a 40-hour window to retrieving sperm following death.
‘We took the sample, took it back to the lab to see if there was any life in the sperm,’ he said.
Minnie Alex was born earlier this week, with Ellidy Vlug using IVF to conceive her daughter following the tragic death of her partner Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin
Rumi is clearly relishing her role as the ‘big sister’ and has taken on the role with gusto
The last-minute extraction was successful, they had enough live sperm to inseminate Ellidy using IVF treatment.
‘When we got the news the sperm was still viable it was such the weirdest thing to celebrate,’ friend Laura told Spotlight.
‘Ellidy is so beautiful, they deserve this child, Chumpy deserves this child.’
Ellidy gave birth to Minne Alex on Monday, their ‘miracle baby’ that acts as both a beautiful continuation of his legacy and a bittersweet reminder of his absence.
‘I’ll be talking to my baby saying “you’ve got the best dad in the whole world. I will show you everything he is and was, but he’s not here”,’ she said.
‘And he wont be here, but you’re so lucky he’s your dad.
‘I can’t put in to words. You can’t describe him in words. You meet him and you feel this energy. He can’t be summed up with words.’