A Dubai schoolgirl has become the world’s youngest master scuba diver by completing a set of speciality dives off Fujairah's coastline, including a simulated rescue mission 21 metres under water.
Ellie May Craig, from Britain, entered the elite league of divers on December 31, the day that she turned 12.
Londoner Toby Monteiro-Hourigan was the previous record holder. He completed his master scuba diver test in December 2020, a day after his 12th birthday.
“I am very happy and excited. I loved every bit of it”, Ellie told The National soon after she finished on Saturday afternoon.
Children under the age of 12 are not allowed to do the test.
“I was nervous to find out whether I had passed or not. It was a bit harder than I expected. It was physically harder on me than mentally. I really had fun under water”, said Ellie, who wants to be a marine biologist when she grows up.
“It was exhausting — both the tasks in the swimming pool and in the sea. It took me all of 11 hours to finish everything. But I was determined to break the record.”
“It was a long day under water for her. But she did it,” her grandfather Ray Hewitt, 59, who is a diver himself, told The National.
“She started diving at 9am and completed all the tasks by 5.30pm in the evening. Her record can only be matched now. Not beaten.”
Ellie said she had to find a missing diver, rescue a panic-stricken diver under water and give CPR to an unconscious one as part of her rescue diving test.
“I had different scenarios in the swimming pool as well as under sea,” she said. Ellie's next aim is to become the youngest female diving master when she turns 15.
“But for now, I will have some cake and get some sleep.”
To qualify as a master scuba diver, Ellie's rescue diving involved resuscitating someone and giving first aid both under water and on the surface.
One of the tasks also included doing a simple maths calculation when she was 21 metres under water, to prove her mental abilities were unaffected when she was submerged.
Before she began her world record attempt, her grandfather said: “The reason why it is difficult to complete in a day is because it is time consuming and exhausting for the diver. Imagine a 12-year-old doing it. But she believes she can do it.”
Hundreds of hours of training and more than 50 open-water dives are needed to be a master scuba diver. Ellie has already completed 74 dives, mostly in Fujairah and the Maldives.
Her mother Stacey Craig said it was “nerve-racking” to see her take part in an extreme sport like diving.
“I was really, really nervous the whole day. She went 21 meters deep today and it was really cold. Imagine your daughter doing an extreme sport.
“But she really enjoys this and we have high confidence in her. We are right behind her because diving is what she loves the most,” Ms Craig told The National. She, her husband Stephen and Ellie have lived in the UAE for the last 11 years.
The family said they are grateful to the staff at Al Boom Diving for all of their enthusiasm and help in making Ellie’s dream come true.
The Dubai English Speaking College student, who grew up in Dubai, already held two diving records. She is the youngest to pass a scuba diving test at the age of 10, and also the youngest female open water diver, which she achieved a day after her 10th birthday in 2020.
Mr Hewitt said Ellie wanted to set a record for Dubai as a master scuba diver.
“Dubai is good at setting records. She wants to add a few to the list.”
“Ellie is a natural diver. She loves everything under water. When people see her diving, they say, 'My God! She is good!'”