Mick Fanning’s friendship with Barney Miller had one of those serendipitous starts you imagine would have been scripted. Then again, scripting it wouldn’t make it serendipitous. Nonetheless, years ago, Fanning spotted Miller in the crowd at J-Bay. Noticing he was in a wheelchair and would need some unobstructed viewing in order to enjoy the contest, Mick invited Barney into the competitor’s area. The two have been close friends ever since.
When Miller was 20, he was in a life-changing car wreck that left him with a fracture of the C6 vertebra and a warning from doctors that he’d never walk again. Barney had been through plenty of recovery and rehabilitation by the time he became friends with the world champ, but when shared with Fanning that he had a goal to walk again, Mick immediately put him to work with his own personal trainer.
The rest of Barney’s ongoing journey to walk again seems to have a butterfly effect of positivity for everybody around him. Fanning even says keeping his friend in mind played a major role in getting him through 2015 in one piece, the same year he wrestled with a shark, endured a somewhat public breakup, and lost his brother.
“You can wake up every now and then and just think that the whole world’s against you, and then you just remember we’re still walking around, we’re going and doing what we do,” Fanning says. “And then you have a look at Barn and it’s like well, he’s still smiling. He’s still a hundred percent positive so it’s like ‘alright, my life isn’t too bad.'”