Barney! Congratulations. Can you tell us about the first ever US Open Adaptive Surf Championship?
Yeah, so, the US Open made history by being the first big adaptive event that actually has prize money. The World Championships, which I compete in for Australia, is put on through the ISA –meaning it’s really just representing your country and going for medals.
With this event though, it’sdefinitely is an exciting timefor the adaptive surfing world.
So, there’s nothing comparable to the US Open anywhere else?
No, not at all. Around the world in some countries they have trials, like we had an Australian Title that we had to compete in, but that’s really just for entry into the World Adaptives. This is by far the biggest event –it’s the US Open of Surfing in the adaptive world.
Was the vibe around the event just insane? Were people frothing?
Yeah, everyone was so pumped. People had come from everywhere –from South Africa, from Australia, all around America, it was so cool. A lot of the guys that surf for Australia in the World Adaptives were there as well. It was ground breaking–it really made history.
And, how did it feel to win at such an important event?
It was really, really cool. Since my accident 18 years ago, this was the first thing that really made me feel different –it was a big event with a bunch of people around the world, and it was a feeling like I haven’t felt in a very, very, very long time.And it’s amazing.
Barney Miller. Photo: Junior Ojeda @flickphotos
Did you have a lot of nerves going in to it, with so much weight on winning?
Yeah. So many nerves. And it was a pretty hectic competition as well! The ocean was big –it was breaking through the Oceanside pier and there was a mad sweep. When we got out there on Saturday afternoon it was five-to-six foot.
Our first heat was really scary –we got smashed, we got washed into the pier. From there we paddled through the pier and then tried to paddle out right next to it, but this bomb set came and broke through and we got smashed. Then we got sucked down about 100 yards down the beach.We hadn’t even caught a wave and the heat was almost over. There was a lot of swearing and we were trying to figure out what to do.
When we finally got out again there were about two minutes to go, and I was feeling so jittery. Then literally on the countdown, as they were saying three, two... I got pushed into a wave right when the buzzer went. The wave went right towards the pier and then it reformed, so I ended up getting an 8.7. If I hadn’t got that I would have been down and out!
Then the second day we were surfing in the morning and it was offshore, pumping. The best I’ve seen Oceanside in a long, long time. These big lefts were coming from out the back and all the way through, it was so glassy, not a puff of wind, no current, it was amazing. We werepumped.
When you get into those hectic situations... how do you deal with getting smashed? Do you freak out?
Nah, I’ve had enough beatings now to just sort of cop it. I know I can handle it. I’ve had Mick and the boys take me out to Sunset before, so I know what I can do. It’s still scary and it gets the blood going and heart racing, but I think that’s why I love it so much. I love that feeling of having a rush, and being on the borderline of being scared.
I guess it’d be cool to know that your boys have your back, too...
Yeah, definitely. Well, as long as someone’s around it’s awesome –sometimes there’s no one around and it’s just me, fightin’ it. I get pounded but somebody is usually not too far away.
Well it sounds like a rad event –for you personally, and for the sport.
Yeah, it was. It was so cool to have a breakthrough win, and just get that confidence that I need to go into the World Adaptive Championships next month. Last year I got a silver, and now I’m psyched up for the gold!
Well congratulations on your win, Barney –we can’t wait to see you compete in the World Adaptive Championships in La Jolla, California, from Nov 29 to Dec 3, 2017.
And a huge congrats to everyone who competed in this ground breaking event. You’re an inspiration to us all.