They say, “Age is just a number,” but when you’re trying to become PADI Junior Master Scuba Divers (MSD), those numbers matter. We caught up with three young diving rock stars to hear about the stories behind their accomplishment of this rating and their dive experiences. 

Meet Our Junior Rock Star Divers

A diver waves to the camera while getting kitted up in gear.
Adithya Srinivasan is ready to dive. Sanjana Srinivasan

On December 31, 2022, Ellie May Craig turned 12. She chose to celebrate her birthday by becoming a Junior Master Scuba Diver, a rating she achieved in Dubai. She says, “I was very proud of my achievement and extremely excited to continue with my passion for the ocean.”

This year, on December 21, 2023, Bailey Power did the same thing as Craig by completing her training for her Junior MSD on the day she turned 12 at Roger’s Scuba Shack in Barbados. Just as with Craig, this required a lengthy and challenging day of diving and testing on her birthday.

Four years ago, Adithya Srinivasan, now 16, became one of India’s youngest PADI Junior Master Scuba Divers. “It was like being on top of the world!” he recalls. “I was most thrilled and elated.” 

He continued diving and earning his certifications. Now, he says, “Thanks to PADI, I am [one of] the youngest Junior Divemasters…. Today, I can hold my head high as my achievements are a testimony of my determination, hard work and perseverance.”

The Requirements for Becoming a Junior MSD

PADI Master Scuba Divers are the “best of the best” in recreational scuba diving. Less than two percent of divers ever achieve this rating, making them an elite, respected group. As the certification notes, “When you flash your Master Scuba Diver card, people know that you’ve spent time underwater in a variety of environments and had your share of dive adventures.”

As an adult, to become an MSD, you must successfully have completed your PADI Open Water Diver certification, followed by the PADI Advanced Open Water Diver and the PADI Rescue Diver certification (or qualifying equivalent certifications). You also need five PADI Specialty Diver certifications and a minimum of 50 logged dives.

So, what is a Junior MSD, and how does one earn this prestigious certification?

Junior MSDs are fully qualified MSDs who are under 15 years old, but at least 12 years old. This is the highest rating a recreational diver under the age of 15 can achieve. Junior divers go through the same training and testing as their adult counterparts but with depth and buddy restrictions for safety reasons. They then are automatically upgraded to MSDs when they turn 15. 

For Craig and Power, this meant already having completed all requisite logged dives and specialties for the Junior MSD certification and then achieving both their PADI Advanced Open Water Diver and PADI Rescue Diver certifications just after they turned 12 (the youngest age at which those two certifications can be completed) – quite a feat!

Craig says, “I found this extremely challenging, physically and mentally, but my determination to complete the course got me through it.”

Why Did Our Junior MSDs Start Diving?

Kids are curious and adventurous. The underwater world and the sport of diving offer an ideal playground.

“Watching the movie Finding Nemo when I was eight years old made me want to dive,” says Srinivasan. “It was the rush of colors and the myriad life forms of the underwater world which I wanted to be part of.”

His first dive was in Pondicherry, India on his 10th birthday. His passion for the sport and the underwater world has continued to grow from there. Moreover, he adds, “Scuba diving is now for me a lifelong passion which I shall always love doing.”

Power always loved the water, and found the idea of breathing beneath the surface “almost magical.” Since her first open water dive in Cancun, Mexico, she’s been blown away by everything she’s seen below the surface, describing it as beyond what she “could [ever] have imagined.”

Bailey Power sits by a porthole window at Jules Undersea Lodge. Two divers are in the window.
Bailey Power enjoys exploring the different types of diving, including into an undersea lodge in Key Largo. Courtesy Bailey Power.

Challenges and Support

Our junior rock stars took giant strides with determination, bravery and grit. They persevered to train at the highest levels as young as possible — truly an impressive feat! 

However, not everyone is always supportive. Many thought Srinivasan was too young to dive and that he should wait until he was more physically or mentally developed. “This prevented them from giving me useful guidance as to how I may further advance my skills,” he says. “I guess given my young age, they probably tried to dissuade me by creating a false sense of fear.” 

Luckily, he knew what he wanted to achieve and did – becoming one of India’s youngest Junior MSD and Junior Divemaster. To naysayers, he urges, “It is vital to treat anyone, irrespective of their age, on their merits, capabilities and their love for doing something that they are so passionate about. At [a young] age, what a child wants to hear is encouragement!”

Diver Ray Hewitt shares how much his granddaughter, Craig, loves being accepted into the diving world. When people have expressed that she shouldn’t be on the boat during dive trips, he reminds them and her that it’s a woman’s world, too. Hewitt and Craig both thank the staff at AI Boom Diving in Dubai for their support throughout Craig’s training in 2022. At each step of the way, that staff reassured Craig that she was “competent in her abilities to complete the course,” she shares.

Finally, Power credits enrolling in a PADI Seal Team course at 8 years old with why no one thinks she’s too young to dive. “But if someone did, I would just tell them that they were wrong because I love it,” she emphasizes.

Their Favorite Thing About Diving

All three of our junior MSDs agree: despite the challenges, it’s all worth it for the chance to dive at an elite level.

“I mean, there is so much to see, and who doesn’t want to see a cool shark or fish that in normal life you would never see if you weren’t a diver?” Powers asks. “I think [exploring] is the most incredible part of scuba diving.”

Craig loves the feeling she gets underwater, describing it as “peaceful” and “mesmerizing.” She adds, “It is what I call my happy place.”

A diver hovers over a coral reef while planting
Ellie May Craig hovers over a reef while outplanting corals. Courtesy Ellie May.

Her favorite memory, one that will stay with her forever, was a night dive with eight manta rays. “The eight mantas played with her for about 30 minutes, only her – never came near me,” Hewitt, Craig’s grandfather and dive buddy, recalls with a smile. “I was close by her, but she was not scared in the slightest.”

Srinivasan insists that diving itself is his favorite thing. “Each diving day is something I cherish closely,” he says. From planning to kitting up to hitting the water to mingling unhindered with underwater creatures, “all are my favorite things,” he says. 

While each dive day is special to Srinivasan, his favorite was one when he freed a sea turtle caught in a fishing net in Bali. “Just the sight of watching it swim away freely was so liberating that it filled my inner self with unbounded joy and happiness,” he said. 

What’s Next for These Diving Rock Stars?

Our junior MSDs are so highly accomplished – and so young! We wondered what they hope to do next! 

Power is looking forward to using her new deep dive skills to allow her to explore even more depths. Her travels will soon take her to Easter Island, where she’s eager to see the underwater statues. Finally, she and her father hope to touch two continents at the same time while diving the Silfra Fissure in Iceland.

Craig hopes to become a marine biologist to continue conservation work professionally. To that end, she’s completed marine conservation and coral propagation courses. 

Finally, Srinivasan – our oldest junior rock star – knows that diving will be a part of his long-term plans. He is eager to turn 18 to increase his dive depth. Then, once he’s ready, he’d like to take on becoming a PADI Open Water Scuba Instructor and, hopefully, a PADI Course Director

Advice for Other Kids

Our Junior MSDs encourage other kids curious about scuba diving to try it out. “The memories that you will make are unforgettable and will last a lifetime,” Craig says. 

“Becoming an MSD needs absolute focus and hard work, which will reward [you] with skill sets that will not only enable [you] in the water but also in life,” Srinivasan adds. 

A group of kids sitting on the edge of a pool waiting for a scuba diving lesson
There are PADI programs appropriate for many different age levels.

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