Coming up for air: How a 10-year-old became a scuba diving master

Published 12:09 am Saturday, July 22, 2023

SALISBURY — Trent Ethridge will be turning 11 on July 29. He isn’t old enough to drive and not even in high school yet, but that hasn’t stopped him from already becoming a master scuba diver. Actually, it only motivated him since his goal was to be one before he turned 11.

Master is the highest qualification a diver can have. Trent first got interested in scuba diving a few years ago and has been passionate about it ever since. He enjoyed being in the water before he started diving and as he learned more about it, he decided to commit to it.

“Just wanting to explore the ocean. Wanting to see what animals, creatures are in the ocean,” Trent said. “I watched videos of people scuba diving in the Caribbean, it looked really cool. So, I asked my mom and dad if I could do a summer camp for scuba diving. I did it when I was eight years old and I fell in love.”

He went to the same camp the following summer and right after he turned 10 he became a certified diver. All scuba diving certification agencies require that a person be at least 10 years old in order to be a master diver. It demands that they go through several kinds of certifications that include night diving, boat diving, nitrox diving which is “diving with certain mixtures of air so you can stay down longer at certain depths” according to Trent.

Devan Simmerson is the owner of 3D Scuba in Granite Quarry and is a master scuba diver himself. Simmerson met Trent and his family last year and initially suggested that he could be a master diver if he put in enough effort.

“I had another kid who got his before he turned 12 and I was like, ‘Hey, you wanna beat this guy right?’ ‘Absolutely!’ So, that built a fire in him to try and get it before he turned 11,” Simmerson said.

Simmerson explains that Trent was able to grasp challenging diving aspects very quickly which maybe makes his accomplishments not as surprising as they could be.

“He’s a natural in the water. The hardest skills, the mask skill, where you have to take your mask off underwater and put it back on. He had no issues or anything. That right there shows that he’s got the confidence and the ability to do it,” Simmerson said.

Trent soon convinced both of his parents, Curtis and Jennifer, to become certified divers so they could do it together as a family. Curtis had only resort dived 20 years ago, but soon grew to appreciate it the same as Trent.

“I love it. I’m not a big swimmer, but being underwater is a whole different world,” Curtis said.

For Trent, it wasn’t always easy becoming a master. Trent’s family are members of the Piedmont Diving and Rescue Association which allows them to swim in local quarries. During the winter months as it got colder out, it became harder for Trent to dive, but when the weather warmed up, he persevered. Trent also had to complete 50 logged dives where the details of each one are recorded in a book and a witness signs their name before it is given to the certification agency. That is easier said than done for a 10-year-old.

“The hardest thing that he would have to do in the short amount of time is actually getting the 50 logged dives. That’s a lot of dives to get, especially when you can’t drive and you gotta depend on your parents to get you there,” Simmerson said.

While doing his rescue course, the last one that is completed before a person can be a master, the physical limitations of being 10 was most apparent.

“For the rescue that I had to do, it was a lot harder because I was the only kid and everyone else were adults. They were a lot heavier than me, so it was harder to get them up to the surface,” Trent said.

While Trent is underwater, he needs to be fully aware of his surroundings. He has to routinely check his gage so he doesn’t run out of air. What really helps Trent is the dive computer he wears like a big wristwatch that monitors his nitrogen levels, what depth he’s at, and how long he can stay before he gets decompression sickness.

Trent has dived into all kinds of waters since he was eight. Besides North Carolina, he’s been in Myrtle Beach as well as Jamaica. After swimming in quarries, Jamaica was quite the experience for Trent. What made it great for him was how clear and warm the water was compared to what he’s used to. He was able to see more coral reefs and multiple species like lionfish, eels and sea turtles.

Trent and his family will be traveling to Costa Rica this fall on another diving trip. Trent is excited to compare it to waters he’s seen in Jamaica. Some of his dream diving destinations are the Atlanta Aquarium so he can swim with the whale sharks and the Great Barrier Reef. When he’s old enough, Trent wants to become a scuba instructor. Simmerson would like that, too, so he can hire him for his store.

“I love working with Trent, his whole family is great to work with. He shows the drive and the desire to want to learn and I’m looking forward to him turning 18 so he can be my instructor and work for me. He’s got everything it takes to be an instructor,” Simmerson said.