Following Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin’s drowning death earlier this week, a local fishing specialist offered his tips on how to avoid shallow water blackouts. Picture: iStock
Following Alex ‘Chumpy’ Pullin’s drowning death earlier this week, a local fishing specialist offered his tips on how to avoid shallow water blackouts. Picture: iStock

‘I felt dizzy’: Latest warnings on shallow water blackouts

A GLADSTONE fishing specialist has revealed his own freediving terrifying ordeal following the shock drowning of an Australian Olympian on the Gold Coast this week.

Olympic snowboarder Alex 'Chumpy' Pullin's death sent shockwaves through the Australian sporting community after he drowned on the Gold Coast on Wednesday.

But how prevalent are shallow water blackout deaths during deep water swims like Alex was enjoying before tragically losing his life off Palm Beach?

Gladstone fishing specialist, Compleat Angler manager Liam Jones, said spearfishing deaths and incidents are uncommon.

"Because you normally do it with a mate or someone who matches your capabilities," he said.

"I go spearing with mates of mine and they are a lot more advanced in spearing than I am so they won't dive to the depths they can dive when they are with me because you need someone equal to your task."

Mr Jones's top tip for staying safe while spearfishing was knowing your capabilities.

"You are not going to 15 metres if you know you can only hold your breath for 45 seconds, so the biggest thing for me is knowing your capabilities," he said.

Mr Jones said he once came close to a shallow water blackout while freediving in a terrifying ordeal.

"I have been borderline shallow water blackout and basically, for me, I just felt dizzy and like I was going to go to sleep," he said.

A Royal Surf Life Saving Australia spokesman said a shallow water blackout occurs because the normal "breakpoint", the irresistible urge to breathe, has not been reached before consciousness was lost, according to Royal Life Saving Australia.

"The most common cause is voluntary hyperventilation before submerging," the spokesman said.

"Hyperventilation, or overbreathing, involves breathing faster and/or deeper than the body requires.

There were other less common causes, relating to heart abnormalities, which lead to loss of consciousness in the water follow hyperventilation."


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