Crack That Whip
If you’ve popped by Darwin’s world famous Mindil Beach Markets, there’s a good chance you've heard the sounds of sharp cracks. Follow your ears to the source, and you’ll come by the fastest whip-cracker in the world*, Mick Denigan – decked out in denim, Akubra on top – cracking whips effortlessly in a choreographed balance of skill and danger, often with fire.
By Tierney Seccull
But did you know this market whip-cracker has crafted whips for presidents, prime ministers, international cricket captains and members of the royal family? Or that he created a guitar strap from crocodile skin for Bob Dylan, and designed whips for Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman in Baz Luhrmann’s film, Australia? He was even invited to crack his whip at the Opening Ceremony of the Sydney 2000 Olympics.
This year, Denigan marks 33 years of Mick’s Whips at Mindil Beach Markets, and says the last three decades have been a cracking good time.
“Drawing off the positive vibes that people give out, without sounding too over the top, that’s definitely what I enjoy the most,” he says.
“I didn’t necessarily start because of tourism, it’s part of it, but for me it’s the opportunity to teach people things they didn’t know. I teach people how to use them, I explain to them the cultural significance in that you don’t hit the animal but instead make a noise … and different ways to crack [a whip], that kind of thing.”
In 2003, Denigan opened the 20-acre Mick’s Whips Homestead, located off the Stuart Highway about 45-minutes from Darwin. It’s home to the world’s largest stock whip – measuring 25 metres and weighing in at over 500 kilograms – as well as The Whip Museum, which he created during the pandemic years.
There, you’ll find just about everything there is to find about whips, including the many different kinds, tools used to craft them and how they’re made.
“The museum, it’s a real little gem … and a really good experience for visitors to come out and learn about the different aspects of the whips, and about Mick’s Whips. There’s a bit about crocodiles in there as well!”
Visitors are welcome to visit the homestead, and if you’re closer to Darwin CBD, a visit to Mick’s Whips at the Thursday and Sunday markets is a must. Time it right to catch his 7.30pm show or pop by between 7-8pm for a chance to learn how to crack a whip, and join the ranks of about 65,000 Denigan has taught over the decades.
“When they learn how to crack it, or when a little kid learns how to crack it and everybody cheers, you can just feel that it’s a really nice thing happening. That’s probably the highlight of the whole thing for me.”
*Mick recently broke the record with 127 cracks in 10 seconds, the record officially accepted by The Australian Book Of Records.
Photo: Flowpyre Photography