Adam Wienckowski went to high school four miles from the beach.

So why is he traveling across the world for beach volleyball on the not-quite-real beach of southern Germany, in the shadow of the Alps?

"It's really great at such a young age to be able to test yourself against some of the best players in the world," Wienckowski said. "It's a great learning experience."

The Providence School graduate is ready to help the United States team spike its way to victory at the World University Championships of beach volleyball, which begin Monday in Munich.

He's joining up with Florida State University teammate Jon Justice, a St. Augustine High School graduate, in a two-man team that will take on university-affiliated pairs from around the globe.

Wienckowski and Justice qualified for the competition, governed by the International University Sports Federation, by winning May's USA Volleyball collegiate national championships in Hermosa Beach, Calif. The fourth-seeded FSU duo defeated the University of Hawaii pair of Colton Cowell and Brett Rosenmeier, who will also represent the national team in Germany.

Wienckowski, though still in high school at the time, was eligible to participate in the collegiate tournament because he took online coursework at Florida State during his senior year at Providence.

For Wienckowski, this isn't his first time facing an international field. He previously represented the U.S. team at events including the 2017 FIVB World U21 Championships in China, then alongside Nease High School's Clay Messenger, as well as the 2016 U19 competition in Cyprus.

Compared to the competition on Florida's beaches, international play is a whole new ballgame.

"There's no taking even a point off," Wienckowski said. "You're scouting the teams, you're watching film on them and you have to already know their weaknesses."

Volleyball wasn't the sport the 19-year-old pursued first. He started out with NBA dreams, and even won the River City Championship at 12-and-under level in 2011 while playing under Providence boys basketball coach Jim Martin.

But Wienckowski caught the volleyball bug at the end of middle school. Since then, he's traded the orange ball for the yellow and blue one, and he's enjoying the ride.

"For him, he's very passionate about it," said his coach, Kent Ammons of Jax Beach Volleyball. "He eats and drinks it, and that's what it takes to be the best."

It also takes hard work and a travel schedule that racks up the mileage.

As Ammons notes, promising players overseas often receive intensive training opportunities from their national volleyball federations or Olympic committees. In much of the United States, by contrast, boys with volleyball interest don't even have official competition in high school, indoors or outdoors.

"They [foreign athletes] get months of training, competitive funding," Ammons said. "Here, it's still often kind of looked at as a recreational picnic sport."

A total of 140 schools compete in boys indoor volleyball at FHSAA district level, but they're chiefly concentrated in the Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Orlando areas. The northernmost participating school is Spruce Creek in Volusia County.

Competitive beach volleyball, whether for boys or girls, isn't among the 22 recognized FHSAA sports. While interest at Providence is higher than most schools - it even includes a court on campus for recreational play - Wienckowski needed more rigor to tune up for the world's best.

At Florida State, meanwhile, where the 20-year-old Justice is a student, men's volleyball is played as a club sport but isn't operated by the athletic department.

So the quest for serious competition sends the two on the road to tournaments like May's national college event or down to the state's southern tip for matchups against seasoned adult players.

"It kind of forces us to grow up," Wienckowski said.

That's helped them adapt quickly to elite opponents. Because both Wienckowski and Justice stand just a notch above six feet in a sport where elite players often measure up only slightly shorter than NBA forwards, they've had to rely on their teamwork, skills and positioning to get the upper hand.

"We're a pretty small team relative to the beach volleyball world," Wienckowski said. "Our game is a lot of ball control. We both pass and set pretty well, and we're kind of that scrappy team that tries to move you around."

Their schedule begins Monday. They're not the top seeds - that honor belongs to a pair from France - but they're hopeful that their experience competing together in Florida will pave the way for a deep run in the tournament.

And win or lose, Wienckowski said he's getting encouragement from former Providence classmates cheering him on from the First Coast.

"It really takes a lot out of you, but everyone's playing a such a high level," he said. "That makes it really special."