He turned up thin and lanky, a pasty southern boy with long levers and a big ticker.
Now, four years after moving up from Dunedin, Mount Maunganui surf lifesaver Andrew Newton has cracked the national team, selected as the board specialist for the DHL International Surf Challenge from January 31 to February 4.
Mount coach John 'Spindles' Bryant, himself a former Dunedin product, saw something in the young Newton when he arrived, a hunger to push himself and a thirst for knowledge.
"I moved up the first year just to have a crack at something, just to be half-decent at surf," a jubilant Newton said, minutes after the 12-strong team was announced yesterday.
"You could call it a four-year plan between myself and Spindles - he's always been the believer but it took me until last weekend to really feel like I deserved to be there."
Newton joins former Tauranga lifeguard Mike Janes in the open team, while the 12-person development team is practically riddled with Bay of Plenty talent.
Bryant has three more athletes - Katrina Madill, Kendall Elliott and Arna Wright - in the second-stringers, while Gold Coast-based Omanu teenager Max Beattie and Papamoa prodigy Natalie Peat have also been selected.
At 16, Te Puke High School's Peat is the youngest in either team, getting the chance to compete against her senior counterparts and the world's best lifesavers in the three-test series.
All performed at last week's national trial, none more than Newton who won both his board race heats.
"When I first heard about the trial, I knew I wanted to race for my country at my home beach. I've earned my spot and I guess I wanted it more on the day but so much credit must go to Spindles for planning our campaign."
Other features of the senior team include the comeback of triple world beach flags champion Morgan Foster and the selection of Piha teenager Kirsty Wannan.
Evergreen veteran Foster, who turns 35 in January and won world titles in 2002, 2004 and 2006, will link with current world flags champion Paul Cracroft-Wilson. New Zealand coach Scott Bartlett explained the pacy duo will share duties for the three-test series.
"We have a plan to rotate those two around so we can get some real dominance in the beach relays," Bartlett said.
"They'll be very valuable - the beauty of those two is that you could chuck either of them in the flags and they'll both destroy it.
"It's one of the rare areas we have that luxury."
Teams from Australia, Japan, Great Britain, Canada and the United States have already confirmed they'll be taking part in the International Challenge, while two surf boat crews will be added after the second round of the national surf boat series in Whangamata on January 2.
New Zealand senior team:
Paul Cracroft-Wilson (Fitzroy), Morgan Foster (South Brighton), Michael Janes (Midway), Travis Mitchell (Mairangi Bay), Daniel Moodie (Westshore), Andrew Newton (Mount Maunganui), Madison Boon (Mairangi Bay), Nikki Cox (Westshore), Ayla Dunlop-Barrett (New Plymouth Old Boys), Teneale Hatton (Orewa), Chanel Hickman (South Brighton), Kirsty Wannan (Piha).
New Zealand development team:
Max Beattie (Omanu), Toby Harris (Wainui), Steven Kent (Titahi Bay), Michael Lee (Mairangi Bay), Nick Malcolm (Mairangi Bay), Cory Taylor (Midway), Rachel Clarke (Orewa), Kendall Elliott (Mount Maunganui), Bailey Elliott (Mairangi Bay), Katrina Madill (Mount Maunganui), Natalie Peat (Papamoa), Arna Wright (Mount Maunganui).