When Todd Doyle pits his wave-shredding skills against the world's hottest young surfers this week, there'll be no denying that he's done his homework.
Set to compete at the ISA world junior titles in Peru, the tall Mount teenager has spent this year improving his surfing - and his education - in the nurturing environment of the Raglan Surf Academy.
With the blend of scholastic achievement, competitive smarts and high-performance wave-riding that the academy fosters, Doyle says he'll be keenly focused when the event hits the water on Saturday.
A former under-16 champ at both the national scholastics and Maori nationals, Doyle exited in the third round of the under-16 draw at the 09 ISA world juniors in Ecuador.
This time, his under-18 division will include the likes of California wunderkid Kolohe Andino, who's been giving top-level pros a run for their money recently.
"Ecuador [in 2009] was a good experience but perhaps I was a bit overwhelmed by being in a new country," 17-year-old Doyle says. "I could easily have made it through that repechage heat."
Coaching has since highlighted the crucial role of heat strategy.
"This time I'll definitely sit down a good 20 minutes before my heats, watch who's getting the top scores and how, see where the best waves are coming through, and surf how the judges will score."
Raglan academy coach Larry Fisher, a former New Zealand rep and national juniors coach, has been key in developing Doyle's tactical awareness.
"Larry tells us to mix it up on each wave, with a wide range of moves and big combos.
Say, a huge air reverse (aerial 180-degree spin) followed by a sweeping roundhouse cutback, keeping the flow. That's what judges are looking for now."
Once cutting-edge, aerial moves are now stock-in-trade for competition surfers.
"I've been worked on my air reverse for the past year, I've got it pretty sussed now," Doyle says.
Australia has won six of the eight team titles since the inaugural event in '03, including last year at Piha.
In its best two results, New Zealand finished seventh in '09 and '10.
Starting on Saturday, the eight-day event will see 250 surfers from 30 countries descend on Punta Hermosa, near Peru. With left-hand break Senoritas and right-hander Caballeros, it offers quality point-break waves - something Doyle is happily adjusted to.
"Being at Raglan has definitely taught me to surf more down-the-line, and how to surf point breaks. I've gained confidence in bigger waves," he says. "There's almost always a wave over two foot so you can surf most days. A lot of pros and photographers go there, too, it really pushes your surfing."
Reaching the semis at the '08 Rip Curl Grom Search Australasia series final in Victoria, Doyle's other successes include runner-up finishes in the Volcom series and Billabong age-group series.
How is he aiming to carve a path through the world's top young talent? "I'm going to keep positive and focus on staying in the main draw - I don't want to think about repechages. I'd love to make the final."
For inspiration, there's Raglan Surf Academy graduate Billy Stairmand, who downed 10-time world champ Kelly Slater at last month's Telstra Drug Aware Pro in Western Australia.
"It's great how Billy's progressed, that win over Kelly showed how under-rated New Zealand surfing is. Larry's said to us: 'Billy was sitting in this classroom just three or four years ago, that just shows guys from here can do it'."
Rip Curl New Zealand team
Under-18 boys: Todd Doyle (Mnt) Joe Moretti (Mimiwhangata, capt), Ben Poulter (Rag), Tane Wallis (Piha).
Under-18 girls: Alexis Poulter (Rag, capt), Ella Williams, Grace Spiers, (Whangamata), Jayda Martin-Fitzharris (Gis).
Under-16 boys: Adam Grimson (Gis), Dune Kennings (Whangamata), Elliot Paerata-Reid (Piha), Paul Moretti (Mimiwhangata).
Manager: Lee Ryan (Mnt). Coach: Michael Fitzharris (Gis).
Live webcast: www.isawjsc.com