Stab Magazine | The Barney Miller Story Is One You Should Know

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The Barney Miller Story Is One You Should Know

You And Me is a film Stab adores.

news // Apr 29, 2016
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

When Dave ‘Barney’ Miller picks up the phone it’s the eve of one his biggest challenges yet. Tomorrow he will sit in a crowded cinema as his life is laid bare on the screen in front of him. He is embarking on an Australian tour of the documentary, You and Me, charting his life as an aspiring pro surfer before a near-fatal car accident left him a quadriplegic. The recovery and the love story that transpires in the midst of it all is a yarn for the ages, but it’s not all roses. 

“It’s real,” says Barney. “Four and a half years in the making. It’s coming to the end of that but the beginning of something so much bigger.”

A young Aussie on the up, Barney before the accident that left him a quadriplegic.

As a 20 year old, Barney was one of the best surfers on Australia’s mid-north coast. His heroes were Occy, Luke Egan and Matt Hoy, and one day he hoped to give the tour a solid swing. But a car crash in which his friend crossed the road and crashed into trees left him a quadriplegic, totalling his surf dreams and plunging him into a depression many thought he wouldn’t emerge from. Then he met Kate, a beautiful girl from an obscure country town, who would become the other half of this inspiring and unlikely tale. 

“Having a story about myself and Kate is, I dunno… it’s one of those pinch me moments, like, shit is about to get hectic,” he says. “But I’m ready for it, and I’m ready to ride the roller coaster where it takes me.”

After the car accident that left Barney a quadriplegic spelling the end of his surfing dreams and the beginning of a dark bout of depression.

Barney had developed a bit of a drinking problem when he met Kate. After the initial recovery from the injury, the crushing reality of a life without legs to walk on had set in and Barney turned to the bottle. Kate had her own problems. Raised in a tough country town, a number of suicides and untimely deaths among her close friends had sent her spiralling. Barney spotted her at a bar one night, had his friends hoist his chair onto the top of the bar to get her attention, and the rest is history. 

“We sorta met at a time when we were both on destructive paths, I guess,” he says. “Once you’re with someone you love spending time with and you really love, you’re not just thinking about yourself. Now you’re doing stuff and trying to achieve things for her as well.”

“We sorta met at a time when we were both on destructive paths, I guess. Once you’re with someone you love spending time with and you really love, you’re not just thinking about yourself. Now you’re doing stuff and trying to achieve things for her as well.”

The strength of his willpower and the tenacity with which he has attacked a seemingly insurmountable challenge has inspired many, Mick Fanning among them. The three-time world champion even dedicated his 2013 world title to Barney at the ASP Awards. Mick’s own brother, Sean, was a highly talented surfer on the cusp of a professional career when he was killed in a car crash. Barney survived his, and he’s been a source of inspiration for Mick ever since. But it goes both ways.

“Mick’s been one of the biggest influences on my life and just seeing what he’s achieved, seeing him comeback from injury, is such an inspiration,” says Barney, adding: “Pretty much everyone I’ve met and who’s helped Kate and I in our dreams and journey to do what we wanna do in life, it’s all come from people Mick’s known,” he says.

“Mick’s been one of the biggest influences on my life and just seeing what he’s achieved, seeing him comeback from injury, is such an inspiration.”

One of them was the world famous fitness coach, Jan Carton, who’s become Barney’s mentor and whose initial help was what put him on the road to recovery in the first place.

“She was the first person who helped me start this journey of rehabilitation and it just went from there pretty much.”

From Jan, he went onto work with leading neurophysicist Ken Ware who has helped him reach a level of recovery few thought possible. He was even able to dance with Kate at their wedding.

“I first started working with Ken 10 years ago now. What Ken’s taught me has been a whole new level of confidence. Working with Ken, my body has gone up to the next level with his neurophysics, and just being able to push through the boundaries.” 

“I first started working with Ken 10 years ago now. What Ken’s taught me has been a whole new level of confidence. Working with Ken my body has gone up to the next level with his neurophysics, and just being able to push through the boundaries.”

The injury might have changed his life, but it’s also given him the power to change thousands more. And that’s a role Barney is relishing. The movie is just the start of it, he says.  

“I just want to continue to help people that get into a situation where they think there is no way out or there are obstacles put in people’s paths. I’d love to help people that way, whether its through talks, or I’d love to do a book, I’d love to go down that path. And obviously also start a family with Kate, be an active dad, and work myself to get on my feet all the time.”

Premier dates (with Q&A) for You and Me below:

Gold Coast Premiere with Mick Fanning, Pac Fair Event Cinemas, Friday, April 29.
Coffs Harbour Event Cinemas, Sunday May 1.
Village Geelong Cinemas, Tuesday, May 3.
Village Jam Factory, Melbourne, Thursday, May 5.

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