How to Overcome Your Fear of Water, Swimming, and Snorkelling

by Mihai Pinzariu on September 23, 2019

Sure, we live in a country where 85% of us live within 50km of the coastline, but does that mean we’re all splashing around in the sea, sparkling with confidence and enthusiasm? Nope. There are heaps of us out there with a fear of water, swimming, and snorkelling who would love to be joining the others out on the beach, but are too afraid to do so.

Fear is a normal part of life, and everyone in the world is scared of something. If you’re afraid of the water, swimming, or snorkelling, there’s a reason behind that fear and a number of ways you can work to overcome it. The most important thing is to realise that fear is just an opportunity for strength; fear exists to help us grow as humans; and fear is completely distinguishable. Yep, just like a flame, you can put fear out.

In this article we’re gonna talk about the reasons why people might be afraid of water, swimming, or snorkelling, and then we’ll tell you some easy ways to beat your fear so you can conquer the water and be the mermaid/man you’ve always wanted to be.

Remember: you’re in total control, and you’re totally capable.

Why are you afraid?

If you want to overcome a fear, you’ve gotta think about why it exists and what it is exactly that you’re afraid of. You’re clearly not afraid of water itself, since you’re able to shower and walk in the rain without going into fits of panic. There are also reasons behind fear of snorkelling and swimming, and knowing what those are is important.

So we’ll tell you the most common reasons why people are afraid of water. If you recognise your fear here, know that you’re not alone and there are others out there who feel the same. Even better, others who have overcome that fear and now live stronger and happier.

  • Fear of drowning – You may be afraid that you will drown while trying to swim out in the ocean. Know that you can always go out in a life jacket, stay near the shore in plain view of lifeguards, and go with a buddy who can ensure you stay safe.
  • Fear of the unknown – You’ve never been snorkelling before, or you’re not sure what’s lurking beneath these waters. What if you stumble into a shark or a dangerous fish? Banish this fear of the unknown by making sure to read up on the area where you’ll be swimming, what kind of fish exist in the waters, and if there’s nothing to be afraid of – there’s nothing to be afraid of.
  • Bad childhood experiences – Many people have had bad experiences in water as a child. Know that these experiences are common, and as a child you were not as knowledgeable and strong as you are now. Know that this was an isolated event which occurred to you as a child, and is unlikely to repeat again.
  • Parents afraid of water – A lot of people pick up a fear of water and swimming from their parents, who themselves never learned to swim or be in water. If you feel like this may be driving your fear, remind yourself that you’re an individual person with your own experiences and sets of beliefs and fears. You are not your parents.
  • Fear of snorkelling itself – If you’ve never been snorkelling, it can be easy to feel afraid of the activity. You are, after all, breathing underwater, which is pretty unnatural. If this is driving your fear, properly acquaint yourself with your equipment and how it works. Practice makes perfect, and with enough use of your snorkelling mask in the shower or a shallow pool, it’ll come like a second nature to you.

Tips & exercises to help you own it

OK, now you know why you’re afraid, let’s take that fear and put it to rest for good. It’s time you lived your life free of fear, and got to enjoy all the water activities you’ve been dying to do on those hot summer days. Consider these tips and practice these exercises. Nobody said overcoming a fear is easy, but it sure is possible, and the rewards are worth it in more ways than we can list. So let’s get to it. You’ve got this, you’re ready.

  • Water theory

Alright, let’s get you acquainted with water. Yes, you shower and bathe, but let’s do a little more than that. There’s something about water that’s making you scared, so maybe it’s time to read up a bit on how water actually works. What makes us drown, what makes water enter our ears, how to get it out, what’s all this stuff about floating and buoyancy, and all that. Knowing how water works will make you more confident when you’re in it. Here’s a great page to get you started – The Science of Swimming

  • Water acclimation exercises

Read that article? Feeling a bit more better now (and a bit more scientific maybe, too?) Great, let’s actually get you in the water now and doing stuff. You’re ready for Step 2: Water Acclimation Exercises. Basically, exercises to get you used to the feeling of being in and around water.

Depending on what you’re afraid of, you’ll have to practice walking in water, floating in water, dunking your head underwater, and breathing underwater. This page includes several exercises on each of the above, with plenty of instructions and helpful information. Read the guide, and head to your local pool to practice these. Remember: every time you finish an exercise, you’re one step closer to killing that fear.

  • Know your equipment

We mentioned it before, but we’ll mention it again. While snorkelling, a lot of people can be afraid because they’re not actually sure how their equipment works – therefore not sure when it will fail them, or how. That leaves them in a constant state of anxiety, waiting for the instrument to fail or throw them off.

Being confident in water is all about knowledge and practice, and knowing how snorkelling equipment works and how to best use it is vital for overcoming this fear. Learn how your dry-top snorkel system works, what happens if you dunk it underwater, and make sure you’re ready for anything and everything. When you know your equipment like the back of your hand, there’s nothing to be afraid of.

  • Breathing exercises

If you’re afraid of breathing underwater itself, practice breathing with your mouth open in the shower. Many people have been told to keep their mouths closed while underwater, and this freaks them out when it comes to swimming and snorkelling. Get your mouth used to the feeling, and the fact that you can continue to breathe even with water in your mouth.

In a pool or even in a bucket a home, practice opening your mouth and exhaling underwater (blowing bubbles, essentially). This is a technique they use while teaching kids how to swim, and it can really help you gain confidence while breathing underwater. Picture every bursting bubble to be one of your fears, exploding away.

Another important breathing exercise is simply awareness of the breath. Paying attention to your breath as you inhale and exhale, the expansion and contraction of your chest, stomach, and rib cage. Breathing with awareness brings on a state of relaxation, helps you control the breath, and even helps you to breathe more slowly and deeply.

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