Snowboarding as a career was never a long term plan for Alex “Chumpy” Pullin, it was just to ride, season by season. With a goal to achieve enough competitively and do whatever else he could in his snowboarding career to keep the dream alive, it’s worked to the age of 30 and is still working!
Getting started in snow sports in the most authentic style, his folks ran the first ski and snowboard shop in Mansfield. Starting it with his grandparents they moved to the outskirts of town and built a double storey building on the road to Mt Buller where they lived above the ski hire and retail. Chumpy walked through the ski shop every day to go to school.
Starting on skis, snowboarding really hit the scene when Chumpy was eight and his dad was able to get a board small enough, “it was pretty fresh on the scene.” With fond memories of the shop, “there was a pretty good crew in the workshop at the time, getting wrapped up with snowboarding and the equipment. We’d sit in the workshop and discuss what was good and what boards worked well. Back then the gear was pretty basic so we’d customise a lot of our equipment, carve up chopping boards and mount them underneath the bindings to give it a little bit of lift, it was just a really good culture” and snowboarding was something that Chumpy had a natural affiliation with.
Competing in other racing disciplines as well as freestyle, the head to head competition really hit home with Chumpy. “Even when I was a toddler, walking out to the car with my dad, I was always the first one to the car or first one to that tree.” Mountain biking competitively, racing was an element that he really enjoyed in the many sports he pursued when he was younger
Aside from competing, Chumpy loves every aspect of snowboarding. “I love pow days and you can have fun days when it’s spring, and for me boardercross was the one discipline that really incorporated as many snowboard skills as I was learning on the side. So my training consisted of literally riding around the hill as fast as I could and hitting everything as fast as I could and really developing my snowboard skills, and I felt boardercross was the best test for me personally of how I was going, how I was sizing up. Not to mention the head to head racing is such a crazy format, but it’s also something that gives you so much to work on. It’s not just a repetitive routine or similar tricks. Every single run you do with a group of guys racing to the bottom will be different to the next. That was exciting, so yeah I fell in love with that whole side of things pretty early on.”
Winning his first big competition when he was 15, Chumpy competed in the half pipe and GS, and came to Hotham for the boardercross. Competing in two races in one day he won both the open men’s and the under 18’s. “For me, back then, that was my Olympics, that was my World Cup title and my dad and I drove back in the car and I was just so buzzed from the whole thing and really loved it and felt that I really had some skill in that sport that I really wanted to see through. That was a big moment and I guess it’s cool for me now to still be returning to Hotham every year where our training is based as a team, but also the track that we get up here at Hotham every year is really important for the growth of the sport in Australia and that’s the buzz that I’m getting out of it now in all honesty. I’m still always pushing forward to find that one little bit of snowboarding equipment or an edge of skill over the rest of the field on the World Cup tour. I also really love being able to rub shoulders with all the next generation coming through, feeding off their excitement for the sport, their really raw view of it all and it’s really promising. We’ve got a lot of depth in the sport here in Australia and it’s just so cool that since I was 15 and had that big win that really set my career on track and gave me such a vision of the sport, even where I wanted to go internationally, that I’m still coming home to Hotham. It’s awesome.”
Chumpy spends the majority of his season at Mount Hotham. “With the good snow that we’ve had over the past 5 years we’ve really been able to develop the track further. The local race department and cat drivers are really motivated to build something that we’re really stoked on, they’re also pumped that we can train on it and get a lot out of it as well as the general public that come past and can have a go on the track at certain parts of the day, which I think is really cool. It’s really awesome, especially on Road Runner, everyone who is sitting on the lift just gets action right at their feet.”
“Hotham is an awesome mountain all round. Getting back to the fundamentals of the sport, for us there’s no better place to get out and ride around and just really push all my snowboard skills. The terrain is just so playful, there’s pretty much natural built berms everywhere, turning and carving and little side hits and jumps and then not to mention when we go out with a pack of riders, we all race around the hill and there’s plenty of space to do that. It’s the home of boardercross in Australia and I think it always will be because it’s consistently providing us such a great training ground which is cool.”
When Chumpy started, boardercross wasn’t an Olympic discipline. There was a world cup tour, a title tour, much like surfing. Touring around the world stopping at each place and at the end of that tour the best overall rider is awarded the tile. “So that’s how my vision started with the sport and I still have that vision of what the sport is; year by year focus everything towards every season. Now there is a lot more of an “Olympic cycle”, but I can’t truly adjust to that. For me every year matters. I’m training every year to prepare and every race matters, every race is exciting. It doesn’t matter whether the whole world is watching, or we’re down in South America and we’ve got a massive local crowd. It’s still a World Cup stop, it’s still the best in the sport in the world competing and for me that’s really what competitively sums up our sport best; who can actually consistently put down results throughout a season. When the good days come your way and you have a win and then the next time you rock up you’ve lost your bags, you’ve had to borrow gear for the training day, you still get a podium and the next race you might get food poisoning and you’ve got to turn that into a result and it’s really such a big feat to come out on top at the end of one of those years. Having won two of them in my life, that’s competitively what I’m most motivated to do again hopefully before I’m done. I’m still just so focused on that goal, I get such a thrill out of the preparation and I also get such a buzz out of the rivalries that develop throughout the season and there’s been some really good rivalries over the time on tour that still excite me to get back and go head to head with those guys again. I can envision myself doing this a lot longer and it’s actually a sport where experience pays off a lot of the time.”
“I’m so thankful to snowboarding and my career for that because I’ve just learnt so much, more than I could have ever imagined. And it’s cool to still feel that there’s always potential to learn. I think if anything, that’s what excites me most about the sport, it isn’t something that if you just get this specific routine dialled you will place here, you can be the best on the day and things can still go wrong. There’s so many lessons to be learned, training days, training in the gym, riding here at Hotham, competing all around the world and in different places different cultures. I guess because I still focus on that side heavily that’s probably why I’m getting a buzz out of it and I love it, I’m 100% all in for this season.”
Away from snowboarding Chumpy has a love of music and a family with a creative flare. “My folks’ taste in music was awesome. I grew up with The Stones, Hendrix, Creedence and the rest, so learning music was always really fun”. In bands when he was younger Chumpy, along with his sister, played a couple of festivals and gigs up and down the east coast from Coffs right down to Torquay and did a few albums. “Since then, obviously snowboarding has taken full focus of a lot of my time and it makes it tricky to maintain a band, but I still love music and I play it anywhere around the world. It’s just a cool thing to be able to share.”
Loving to perform and also to write, Chumpy still does a bit on his own. “There’s no expectation of it and that’s what I love. For me creatively, it’s best not to have an expectation on it. I want to go write a song – let’s see what happens, rather than I need a song that’s going to sell. I’m lucky to have that opportunity, my snowboarding works out as my full time career and then music is just a real fun hobby.”
Another love of Chumpy’s is surfing and after doing back to back winters since he was 14, Chumpy is looking forward to doing pre-season training at his new home in Palm Beach, Queensland. “I love Australia, honestly travelling is a real special part of what I do and I get to see a lot of really cool places but it probably only makes me more aware of how lucky we are in Oz”