'Incredible speeds': Paralysed surfer on the thrill of riding 'some of the biggest waves in my life'
In 1999, Barney Miller was a passenger in a car that slammed into a tree.
Despite breaking his neck and becoming a C6 – complete quadriplegic – he is determined to push the limits and just see how far he can get in life.
He got back into competition surfing after the accident in the world of adaptive surfing championships and won a world title in his division in 2017.
But it was in the Margaret River region in Western Australia that he tackled the biggest waves he has ever surfed.
"All in all we survived and I got some of the biggest waves in my life and hit some pretty incredible speeds," Barney said.
"I got up to 28km/h on one wave so i was absolutely flying ... but then I also copped probably one of the worst wipe-outs I've had, ever."
Barney has done a lot of breathing work to prepare for remaining underwater for extended periods of time and knows how to stay calm in such a situation.
"I had a buoyancy vest. I just held my breath, I ended up popping up, so that was the main thing," he said.
Barney does not see his disability as the main challenge; that involves finding "a good crew to go with you; that's sort of going to be ready to jump and come with you."
Before hitting the surf his friend asked him, "Are you sure you really want to go out?"
When Barney asked how big the waves were, the reply was "four to six foot, but it's pretty solid."
"We got down to the beach and almost turned around and went back home," he said.
Barney said they didn't really voice their concerns to each other.
"I was really scared and then all the other boys go, 'Yeah, we weren't really keen on taking you but we thought you were so keen to go out there'."
Barney does not think he would want to do it again but is happy he experienced it.
"Just coming over here and experiencing this raw power — it was just another [item on my] bucket list."
Another dream of Barney's is to be able to surf standing up.
"That's the goal — that's what I'm going to push myself to, never say no."
"I'm still very focused on my therapy and spending time standing with my wife ... and just becoming more independent."
//LUISA ROBBO & FIONA POOLE
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