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Interviews: Barney Miller's incredible journey to stand up

Quadriplegic Barney Miller Surfing
Barney Miller back in the water and surfing



The Surfersvillage Interview

"Put your mind to something, work hard & surround yourself with good people and you can do anything." Barney

Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 17 July, 2016 - Barney Miller is an active, life-loving guy who became a quadriplegic 17 years ago as an emerging Pro Surfer. The car he was riding in hit a tree at more than 75 miles per hour.

Told by doctors he would never breathe independently or be able to use his right arm or legs again, Barney has defied all medical assessments through grit, self-belief, hard work and sheer guts. With lots of help and support from friends, including Mick Fanning, Barney is back surfing, and working towards his ultimate goal – to walk, run and surf standing up again.

His story is told in the movie “You and Me” which has just launched across all digital platforms. The artfully directed documentary chronicles his struggles and the obstacles he faces each day. 

What is that you’ve done that you are most proud of?

I have a lot of proud moments but my favorite would have to be what happened on our wedding day last year. I don't know whether I should tell you guys and say you'll have to watch our documentary 'You and Me' to see what happened. Haha. What I can tell you though is if there is one thing I've learnt, it is that if you put your mind to something, work hard and surround yourself with good people you can do anything. 


What are you currently working on that you’re really excited about?

Besides being so amped on all the progress I've been making and focusing on training my ass off to be on my feet full time, I'm really excited right now to be working on my annual charity surf event. 'The Barney Miller Surf Classic' was started in '99 by a good mate Joel 'Tubby' Bath for a Year 12 project to help raise money for me after my accident and each year since I've kept it going to help raise money for a different person every year who has been in an accident and suffered a spinal injury. We have GoPro as a major sponsor whose donation pays for running the event so 100% money made goes straight to the individual. I also try to get a lot of other companies involved to help supply product to use for finalists in all nine divisions along with all the raffles throughout the weekend to help generate more funds for the recipient. It feels good to be able to help the person we do it for and donate the money to help their road to recovery.


Tell us what has been your biggest mistake and what did you learn from that mistake? 

My biggest mistake would have to be years of treating my body so bad with alcohol and junk food. I now know what I don't want to feel like so it motivates me to make better choices and listen to my body better.

Share with us your biggest Rocky Balboa moment (you know, punching meat in a freezer then running up the steps of City Hall with your own special theme music blaring.)

Probably the first time I got to walk in a walker again. Feeling the steps and knowing I can do this. I remember I had old school TOOL playing too which was psyching me up even more!

You’ve done a lot of training. It looks very intense. How do the physical sensations of an intense workout feel to you?

Every training session is twice as bad as a normal workout because it's both physically and mentally draining. Not only am I pushing my body to its limits but I am also using my mind in combination with this to visualise what I'm trying to move and seeing where I want to get to.

You get to drop into five moments in history – surf or otherwise. Please name them and why.

So I get Bill & Ted moment? Excellent! Haha.

In no particular order:

1. I'd love to go back in time to the Dinosaur era. They amaze me & something I'd love to see.

2. I want to go to the exact point in time that someone thought... I'm going to take this piece of wood or whatever it was out in those blue mini mountains that break & im going to stand up & ride them! What a hellman or woman!

3. I would love to go back to meet & see what an amazing human Eddie Aikau was. My first surf video was The 1989/90 'In Memory of Eddie Aikau' Contest & my real introduction to his story, to big wave surfing & the pioneers (RIP Brock Little who was & still is one of my heroes after watching that) I would've watched that thing a thousand times. Eddie’s story is amazing & what happened was so tragic but shows what a selfless man he was to do what he did that day he disappeared. 

4. Einstein! Just being able to listen to him, see how he worked & pick his brain would be one of the coolest & mind blowing things to do.

5. I want go back & meet Michael 'Eddie the Eagle' Edwards! Or actually track him down today! Just before the launch of our movie we went to the World Premiere of Eddie the Eagle. Hearing his story then researching more & seeing what he had to go through with being told "no", "stop trying" & "give up" because you're 'never going to achieve what you want to achieve' & just saying F that & doing what he did was something that really resonated with me. I've gone through the same thing but pushed it all aside & set my path which I'm GOING to take! 

“You and Me” is available on multi-platforms for rent or download now: Vimeo on demand, iTunesGoogle Play, Amazon, Reelhouse

Bryan Dickerson

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