The last time Steve Kent attended surf lifesaving's German Cup, he was a 19-year-old rookie.
Four years later, the talented swimmer will compete in Warendorf, Germany, this week as one of the senior pros, helping lead another batch of young talent into Europe's biggest pool carnival.
Kent is part of an eight-strong New Zealand surf lifesaving team attending the championships, which will provide valuable international competition before next year's world championships in Australia.
"It's always good to be racing top competition as much as possible from around the world and the last time New Zealand competed at the German Cup, we came away with some great results," Kent said.
"I was lucky enough to help set a world record with our 50m obstacle relay team - that was pretty amazing and added to an incredible experience for me. This will be the first chance for a couple of the younger team members to be on the world stage and I'm hoping they'll get just as much out of it as I did."
Kent will join current New Zealand captain Glenn Anderson, his New Plymouth Old Boys' teammate Ayla Dunlop-Barrett and Gold Coast-based swimmer Andrew McMillan (St Clair) in the team.
The younger talent includes Madison Boon (Mairangi Bay) and rising teenage stars Chris Dawson (Midway), Samantha Lee (Lyall Bay) and Dannielle O'Connor (Omanu).
Dawson was one of the stars at the recent State New Zealand pool championships in Hamilton, where the 18-year-old Lytton High student won the open 200m super lifesaver title, and he's keen to take the next step up.
"This trip is really huge for me but I'm trying to take it as a stepping stone because I know I'm still inexperienced compared to the likes of Steve, Andy and Glenn," Dawson said. "This is bigger then anything I have come in touch with before so it is awesome to be racing and getting advice from such experienced athletes."
McMillan missed the 2007 German Cup campaign, competing at the world university games in Thailand, but made his debut at the 2008 world championships in Germany.
Anderson has been to the last five world championships since making his debut in 2002, while Dunlop-Barrett went to her first worlds four years later.
New Zealand coach Scott Bartlett believes the long trip to the German Cup, which starts on Friday (NZ time), will have many benefits next year.
"With the world championships on our doorstep in Adelaide next year, a lot of the progress our athletes can make on the beach or in the pool this summer will define how well we do at the worlds," Bartlett said.
"It's a long way to go to Europe but we just can't replicate that sort of competition in the Southern Hemisphere - from that perspective, the value of the German Cup is just massive and it's also a great opportunity to test our athletes in an international environment."
While the pool swimming-specialists are in Europe, a 12-strong New Zealand beach team will also be competing this weekend, at two carnivals in Australia.
Steven Kent racing at the State NZ
Photo thanks to Jamie Troughton/Dscribe Journalism