About a month ago, Rip Curl caught up with Barney Miller after he won the first ever adaptive surfing event with prize money – the US Open. He was ecstatic, but he repeated over and over that this wasn’t the end, that his goal was to win a World Title at the 2017 ISA World Adaptive Surf Championships.
And at the start of December, Barney Miller reached this goal. He won a gold medal in the AS5 division (prone assisted) of the World Adaptive Surfing Championships, and became a World Surfing Champion.
When Barney arrived home to the Coffs Harbour airport, his flight was greeted by the Fire Brigade, who sprayed their hoses in a huge congratulatory arc over his plane as it taxied in. And as he exited the plane, he saw family, friends and fans cheering.
After he had a chance to settle in at home, we gave Barney a call to congratulate him on the win.
Barney, congratulations World Champ! Last time we spoke, this was your goal – and now you’ve achieved it!
Yeah it’s kinda crazy! I guess if you just keep saying it, and you fake it ‘till you make it, it’ll happen!
Can you walk us through how the event went down for you?
Well you know, going into the event there were definitely nerves. You don’t know who you’re surfing against, you don’t know what the waves are going to be like – all of these factors that play into how it goes down. La Jolla is such a bad wave that you’ve really got to pick the right ones, or you won’t get any at all.
The first heat went well and I got a couple of scores, it was kind of about getting my feet in the sand, so to speak. Then the second heat was good and I was lucky enough to get the two highest scores from those rounds, which put me in the lead. And I just kept going from there! Just building the house…
In the semifinal heat my board smacked me in the face and cut my cheek open, and by the time I got out the back there was blood pouring out of my face. I couldn’t get stitched up because it meant that I wouldn’t be able to surf in the final, so we just slapped a Band Aid on it and called it a day.
I started getting a bit woozy and lightheaded, but by the time I got to the final I was unusually calm. You get this feeling and you just know it’s going to go well. I think the injury was an obstacle that made the win feel just that much better.
And, what was it like to win? Can you describe the feeling?
Yeah. The one thing that makes this really cool is that when I was a grom, growing up surfing, my whole life goal was to become a World Champion, to win a World Title. That’s what I wanted to push myself towards. And after I had the accident I thought that goal was gone forever, because I didn’t even know if I’d ever get back in the water again. So to push through that, actually get back in the water, and now end up reaching that goal of getting a World Title under my belt… it makes this moment so much sweeter.
When I won it was so emotional. I was on the beach and I didn’t know what to do. I was crying and laughing and it was awesome.
And you did it while representing your country… how much does winning this Title for Australia mean to you?
That is amazing. Australia has such a cool team, and to be able to represent your country and have that honour of wearing the green and gold, and then to come out on top of the whole world… it’s pretty amazing. And the whole team did pretty well. Team Australia actually got 2nd overall, out of 26 counties. Our blind surfer won a gold medal as well, and his name is Matt Formston. Overall were literally 500 points behind the top team – we were so close!
You know, the development of adaptive surfing is really taking off, and you’re at the forefront. It’s pretty rad…
Yeah, you know, I actually watched the replay back on the ISA website and the commentator was saying that – my name is at the forefront of where this sport is going – and that was really cool to hear. It was very humbling.
I obviously can’t thank all of the support that I’ve had over the years, from everywhere – sponsors and friends and family. I’ve been well looked after, and I’m so stoked to be a part of what is happening in adaptive surfing right now.
Congratulations Barney, you’re not only an inspiration, but you’re a World Surfing Champion.
Barney Miller Becomes A World Adaptive Surfing Champion