SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- When you live in San Diego, it's easy to love the beach, but not many love it the way one local teenager does. You can see 13-year-old Graham Allen is in his element when he’s hanging ten off the San Diego coast.
The Pacific Beach Middle School student has been surfing since he was about age 3 thanks to mom and dad who are also avid surfers, but he admits he needed to warm to it.
“I actually remember being a little scared of the ocean right away, but my mom kind of (helped me take) baby steps and I got comfortable with it," Graham said.
So comfortable he now competes. His passion for this sport has grown like the size of the swells he tackles.
“I just love how it's kind of a like a community and it's super tight knit. Even though you could be in the ocean here in San Diego, (with) someone in Australia, you're almost together in the same house," he said.
When Graham saw he could expand that community, he dove at the chance while working with San Diego Junior Lifeguards.
“That gave me confidence and connected me with the Autism Tree Project. I met Jack, one of my students, and from that I started doing surf lessons with him.”
That grew to include some of Graham's surfing friends and now Graham carves out time every week to teach surfing to kids from underserved communities or with special needs.
“They think when it's this shallow it's still scary so it's hard to really get them out farther, but Jack just made that step and is going under and stuff, it's really cool," said Graham.
Something else that’s cool is Graham's mission to give back didn't stop there.
“I was on the beach and there were hot coals and trash around me and I thought that instead of just watching the action unfold, I could plan a beach cleanup," said Graham.
That's exactly what he did. He has organized four so far to try to wipe out all the litter.
“It kind of gave people something positive to do during COVID. They were giving back," said Graham.
Graham said he’s not that great at keeping his real home clean, but, “I think I'm pretty good at keeping my beach clean.” In fact, he’s so good at it, California Safe Schools recently named him a 2021 Earth Day Champion.
Graham just continues to roll with things wherever his passion takes him. You could say the way he moves through life is the way he moves on the water.
“It's just you and the ocean and the ocean makes all of your decisions,” he said, “the waves will just do what they do, you can't change any of that and it's amazing.”
Graham says if we each just picked up one piece of trash, imagine what that could do. If you want to know more about his beach cleanups or his surfing lessons, just send an email to his manager, aka mom, at firstname.lastname@example.org.