Barney Miller recently returned home to the Coffs Coast a champion and a hero after winning gold at the 2017 ISA World Adaptive Surf Championships. FOCUS had a chat with him about the competition, what the win meant to him, and what he plans on conquering next.
Hi Barney. Tell us a little about your recent success in the 2017 ISA World Adaptive Surf Championships and how you came home a champion?
I was fortunate to be part of Team Australia for the past two years in the ISA World Adaptive Surf Championships in La Jolla, California. The event is divided into different divisions, depending on your impairment. My division was AS5-Assist, which means that I am pushed on to the wave by a support team member and paddled back out by another. My team was Dana, and Benny Hiddo, local Sawtell boy and long time mate, who now lives in California. After watching the waves for a few hours before each heat, we chose to stick to the medium peaks, which allowed me to get longer rides for my manoeuvres and a finish on the end section. Thankfully the judges agreed with our selections, and I was rewarded with the scores that kept me on top all the way to the big win.
How intense was the training leading up to the competition?
In 2016 I only just missed claiming the title and came home with a silver medal, but it turned out to be the best outcome that could have happened. It forced me to ramp up my training and focus on something other than just my usual therapy. I started working on every aspect of my health and wellbeing, from nutrition to mindfulness to visualisation. I spent four months in California leading up to the contest, training with my main trainer and mentor, Josh at Strides, a functional rehabilitation centre for people with spinal injuries. So when the competition came around I was in the best shape I had been in, maybe ever.
What was the feeling like representing your country and coming home with the championship?
It is such an honour to represent my country in the sport I love, but to then be able to share that victory with my country is the most rewarding feeling.
As a kid and competing as a grom, your dream and the reason you train so hard is to represent your country and be a World Champ. Even though it wasn’t the way of surfing I had once imagined, a World Title is still a World Title, and to win it I had to work way harder than I had ever expected. This win for me was a nice reminder to never give up on my goals. This one took me two decades to achieve, but I still did it, so as long as I keep pushing I now know I have the power to achieve anything.
What was the reception like coming back to the Coffs Coast after the win?
Coming home to Coffs Airport was where it all sunk in. As we were taxiing in on the tarmac, the flight attendant started doing the usual “Welcome to Coffs Harbour” spiel, but then at the end she said, “also welcome home to Barney Miller, who just won gold at the World Adaptive Surf Championships and if you look out the window, you’ll see the fire brigade giving our plane a water salute in honour of him bringing home Gold for Australia”. The plane then erupted in cheers and clapping. I got a bit emotional at that point. We then walked into the terminal to a big welcome home from Sawtell Boardriders, friends, family and news crew. I am so grateful to be part of such a supportive community.
Will you be defending the title in 2018?
I’ll be doing my best to give it another crack!
You have also been a huge part of the Disabled Surf Association here on the Coffs Coast. How have you seen this grow in the past few years?
The DSA are such an amazing organisation! Back in 2007 I donated all the proceeds from my annual charity surf event The Barney Miller Classic to help get the Coffs chapter up and running. To see how much it has grown not just here, but around Australia, is amazing. The ocean is so healing, and I know how much it has helped me, so it’s great to know that others are able to be given the opportunity to benefit from its power too.
You inspire so many people. What inspires you?
I am inspired by people who follow their dreams – the risk takers, the ones who bet on themselves. I am blessed to be surrounded by so many empowering people who push me every day to get up and try. My wife is also a huge source of my inspiration. She is a thought leader; she isn’t afraid to create her own path or ask the questions that no one usually dares ask, which has opened our world to so many new possibilities.
What’s next for Barney Miller?
My wife and I recently finished writing our book, The Essence of You and Me, which will be out in April through Hachette Publishing. We will also be continuing to take our film, You and Me to high schools around Australia and sharing our story with the students and teachers. Our hope is to empower them to dream big, work hard and never give up.
My goal of walking is still always a priority. I am stoked to say I am now very close to achieving it. I can now stand by myself, only needing assistance to get up, and I have started initiating my own steps. It’s a daily struggle, but I love it. If I could train all day every day, I would.