Quadriplegic Surfer Barney Miller Rides Waves to Recovery

New film ‘You and Me’ documents Barney’s journey from wheelchair to surfboard and his friendship with Mick Fanning

As a schoolboy, David ‘Barney’ Miller kept a journal where he wrote down his goals and aspirations for when he grew up. “Get married to a lovely girl,” was one box he hoped to check off. And so were other things more typical objectives of young boys, and other ambitions regarding sports accolades or achievements like living near the beach. But it was the desire for a wife — a soulmate — that stuck out in Barney’s mind the most. Especially after the accident.

When Barney was 20 years old, he was involved in a car wreck that left him in a wheelchair and with the gloomy diagnosis of never walking again. And a new film from Garage Entertainment shows that accident, along with the rest of Barney’s life — from active, young Aussie to unfortunate quadriplegic, from meeting his dream girl to surfing with Mick Fanning.

‘You and Me’ is not a documentary for tough guys. It’s a tissue-pulling tearjerker that follows Barney through his crippling accident and the challenging hurdles he had to overcome to get back to a place where he appreciated being alive again. It’s his life, as he knows it, on celluloid.

“We’re pouring it all out there for the world,” Barney told Surfline. “This whole process forced us to relive all the good and the bad, the light and the dark times. Watching it on screen has been so healing and therapeutic.”

During his journey, Barney has gone through hell to arrive at a state of mental and physical progress. From diving deep into excessive partying to bedridden health complications, his cards were too often dealt unfavorably. But Barney pushed forward and one thing always seemed to help.

“Having surfing as an outlet,” he said, “as opposed to partying and alcohol, has been everything to me. I really had missed it. I forgot the power of it, how it can pull you out of a rut. But I jumped back in the water and hung out with my mates again – it made me realize how it can turn a bad day into a good one.”

Through his return to surfing, Barney made friends with Mick Fanning – the two met in 2005 at a pub in Jeffreys Bay. And over the years, the two have developed a symbiotic relationship of finding inspiration in each other, in the water and on land. Fanning even dedicated his third World Title to Barney, citing his quadriplegic friend as his encouragement to strive for glory. But Barney feels differently about it.

“I don’t think he realizes that he’s done the exact same for me,” he says in the film. “Watching him achieve what he has and push through and train and get over a nearly career-ending injury. It just shows me what’s possible. What’s stopping me from doing the same?”

While surfing and Barney’s friendship with Fanning is a major part of ‘You and Me,’ it takes a backseat to his relationship with his wife Kate. As the title suggests, the film is a story about two lovebirds — from when Barney first met Kate in a bar until the day they were married. And before that faithful day, Barney trains his ass off so he can kneel to propose, stand at the altar, and dance with Kate during their first song.

And after defying his diagnoses — using his body in ways believed impossible in the name of love — Barney is still fighting. He has etched a big fat checkmark on the number one item on his to-do list, but he’s not done yet.

“I’m still working hard and just training all the time,” Barney said. “My goal is to become an active dad for when Kate and I have kids and to be mobile. Oh, and surfing standing up – that will always be the goal.”

Watch ‘You and Me’ on VOD here.

By Dashel Pierson

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