View Full Version : Fear of (Deep) Water - Need Your Comments

February 15th, 2007, 04:37 PM
Hi Everybody,

I need your help. I am writing a book that aims to help people overcome their fear of water or deep water and I need some input and interviews with anyone who fits the following categories:

1. You are comfortable in the water/underwater. Yet you can remember a time when you were not and can describe in great detail what changed for you.

2. You consider yourself part fish(!) and are extremely comfortable in any one or all of the following: surf, deep scuba, competitive swimming, open water swimming, or freediving. How do you view fear in your activity? Are there things that are beyond your considerable comfort zone?

3. You may be a confident swimmer, but still have fear or anxiety about being in deep water/open water/ or water over your head. What thoughts, feelings, and ideas are contributing to that unease? How do you feel in a pool, lake, river, sea, or ocean?

4. You or someone you know overcame a fear of the water on their own or with the help of someone else. What made the difference?

Obviously, it would be great to have a discussion here, but I am also looking to interview those of you with have interesting things to say that can help other people see their own relationships to water in a new light. I believe that thread content is copyrighted, so I don't think I can use anything posted for my book. I will ideally like to conduct the interview over the phone, Skype, or by email. If you are in Vancouver, BC, I'd be happy to meet you.

Please send me a Private Email if you can help!

Many thanks,

Peter Scott
Vancouver, BC

Concho Pearl
February 15th, 2007, 05:26 PM
I'm very comfortable in the water, always was, until my brother died at age 18.

All 3 of us kids were competitive swimmers,from grade school to High School. I'm the youngest. When my middle brother died in a scuba diving accident, I quit swimming while in HS. As time went on I still water skied, swam in the lake etc... but when it came to swimming in the pool I would just stand around, never put my head under.

When teaching my kids how to swim I only put my head under only a couple times, and man did I feel like I was never going to reach the top and all I had to do was stand up!! I would think man am I messed up or what, I can't even put my head under the water, and I could have gone to State in HS.

27 yr. later I joined the "Y" I was scared, very scared... but thought if I don't face this, how can I help my kids with their own fears. And I really wanted my 14yr old daughter to be a good swimmer, maybe not be competitive but just be more comfortable and able to swim better.

So when I got in the pool, just kept focused on my daughter ability to swim like a dolphin and just went for it. I put my head under the water and stood up and said to my self, there you did it and your still breathing. I just kept doing this, I would then swim the width of the pool, then from swallow to half the pool. Then from just being able to touch to swimming across the deep. Little baby steps, after all it was 27 yr and 2 kids later.

I've even faced my HS coach, whom I quit on, he remember me, everything about me.
He was/is very gracious and lets me come anytime I want to practice starts or what ever.

Now I'm swimming 2000yds, 3 days a week. Entered one swim meet, which I thought I wouldn't be able to do, I did have a small anxiety attack while waiting for the meet to start, but found someone to talk to and it went away.

I truly believe that if you face your fears you become a better person. I fell great!!
I know now that fear do go away.

February 16th, 2007, 09:53 AM

I fall into the third category there. Am fine swimming in any situation but for any depth over 12 feet, I do sometimes get a little anxiety at some point towards the beginning of whatever I am doing. If I am racing, though, the thought usually never crosses my mind.

I think it all stems from a dream I had when I was 5 and learning how to swim - in the dream, my little brother and I were playing at a pool and Jamie sank to the bottom of the 80ft diving well and drowned.

Back to the pool, once I get swimming and concentrating on drills, speed, breathing, etc., the depth doesn't phase me. For open water, I can't think of a time when I felt any anxiety about the depth. My guess on this is that the open water swims I have done generally start out in the shallows and once you get going, you usually cant see 2 feet in front of you. That, and at that point, you're also concentrating on the same breathing, speed, etc.


February 17th, 2007, 07:18 PM
Thanks mupper and conchopearl, I've sent you PMs with follow up questions.

I'd also invite anyone reading this thread to think about helpful skills or strategies or mental preparations for relaxing in the water that were suggested by someone else or that you came up with on your own. What was most helpful in allowing you to relax and enjoy being in the water?


runner girl
February 17th, 2007, 07:49 PM
I was always scared when I swam open water swims. It wasn't bad enough that I didn't do them, it was just there. For me I think it had to do with not being able to see - due to poor vision (now fixed thanks to laser surgery) and lake/ocean water.

February 17th, 2007, 08:27 PM

I have a story, too. Because of a near drowning incident at a young age, I became fearful of deep, dark water with no bottom to view. As long as I was in a pool, it wasn't a problem, but lakes and oceans terrified me. And now I am an ocean swimmer.

When I moved to Roatan, Honduras I could only swim in the ocean so I made sure I was in shallow water (5 to 60 ft.) so I could see the bottom. Once, I went too far across a inlet byte and the bottom fell out to 900 feet I found out. I was frozen so swam fast to go back to before the bottom fell away. My fear was not being able to visually see the bottom. Sweating, chills, the whole enchilada.

And here is the magnificent part: I am going to attempt to swim 19 miles from Roatan to Utila in Aug of 2008. I will be swimming in 6,000 to 23,000 feet of water with no bottom in sight. I decided to try this swim because no one has ever done it and I want to be the first. Swimming in a blue desert so to speak. Now, as I am training for this swim I am realizing that I have much bigger problems than not seeing the bottom such as : currents, tides, fishes, fatigue, nausea from salt water, and the list goes on and on. Sharks are about last on the list now. And I am 59 now, will be 60 when I do the swim and after training for so long and so hard toward this Mt. Everest so to speak, I am now gradually getting over the not seeing the bottm each and every day. It is being replaced with anticipation. I am realizing that the training is the start of the journey and the completion of the swim is the only thing that matters. This type of thinking is gradually replacing the initial fear. So even if I weren't to do the swim (which I will), I am alleviating my lifelong fear of bottomless water along the way.

Pretty productive journey so far from my perspective.


February 17th, 2007, 09:47 PM
I am going to attempt to swim 19 miles from Roatan to Utila in Aug of 2008. I will be swimming in 6,000 to 23,000 feet of water with no bottom in sight. I decided to try this swim because no one has ever done it and I want to be the first.

Donna - Am I correct in understanding that you will be the only swimmer in the water? For some reason, I had thought this was a race you were training for. I was impressed with your goal before, and after reading your post above, I am speechless. You are an amazing, amazing woman. :applaud::applaud:

February 17th, 2007, 10:26 PM
Thank you Barb for the compliment and the encouragement. Yes, I am the only swimmer. I decided to do something big as I turn 60 and I wanted to enter the last quarter of my life with something in my memory bank. However, now that this swim is getting more well known, there are a couple of people who may want to do it as a relay; they are from the States. They will have their own boat and own support staff for their swim. I am basically doing it to raise monies for Alzheimers because my mom is in the last stage of this disease. This swim is for her.

So, as we talk about this swim here, it is relatively unknown, it is something I decided back in October and am training for now. It will take 18 months of training for me as I am an older swimmer, but still strong as a bull.

And hopefully, it will become an event after my first swim of it. Let's hope!!!


February 18th, 2007, 03:37 PM
Hi. I consider myself part of the second category. I am very comfortable in the water, no matter how deep. I do open water swims and the vast, deep blue does not phase me at all. In the middle of the channel for the Great Cheasapeake Bay Swim, the water gets about 90 to 100 feet deep - doesn't phase me.

As another example, when I did the Bonaire Ecoswim in 2005, I pulled really far to the right and ended up way far from the shore. The kayakers didn't even know where I was. I was pretty much alone out there. When I stopped for a second to look around and saw that I was truly alone, I thought, oh well, they'll catch up. I can get some water and the turnaround boat. And I just kept swimming. They did eventually find me, and I found my way to the turnaround. I was dead last, so the turnaround boat pulled anchor and followed me all the way back to the finish line. I was alone on the way there, but very well accompanied on the way back. (The organizers and the support boats were very upset. Last year, they kept really good track of us. Plus, I swam a bit straighter and didn't end up so far from shore.)

I also don't worry about sharks or any of that stuff. I won't be stupid and jump in in the middle of a bunch of them, but I won't let the threat of sealife stop me from swimming. NOTE: I might draw the line at the Amazon swim, though. Ugh! He's just plain certifiable!

I also scuba dive and love it very much. I am a bit less comfortable at great depths (more than 100 feet) in full scuba, since more can go wrong than swimming on the surface. But I still do it, it doesn't bother me much. This might be something that challenges my considerable comfort level. Scuba diving to more than 100 feet I do get a bit nervous, but it doesn't phase me when swimming on the surface.

I really don't think of fear when I am doing these things. I am not a super duper strong swimmer, but I am good enough to do the 10K Bonaire Ecoswim and the 4.4 mile Bay Swim multiple times each. I guess I just love water, and I don't fear it at all - I don't know why. I never had a bad "drowning" experience when I was little, I don't actually remember taking swim lessons, just learned to swim. I am the youngest of 7 kids, but the only real swimmer in the family. I can't really explain it, but I do feel one with the water, it just feels natural.

Feel free to send me a private message if you would like to discuss more.


February 18th, 2007, 08:21 PM
Good luck with your article.
I remember being very fearful of going in water over my head as a child. My mother is extremely water phobic,but she made sure her kids had lessons so we would not have her fear. I probably did not go in deep water until I was over 10 years old.
I don't know when I finally was brave enough to leave the area where my feet could touch. Probably my friends all swimming in the deep area made me venture out of the shallows.
Now I am a complete fish and love the deep water. I compete in open water races including bays, oceans, lakes, and rivers. Last year I had 8 races including Alcatraz Sharkfest. I love the adrenaline rush.
I agree with Diana(my swim bud) that I would not do that Amazon swim. That is just insane! We are not that crazy, right, Di?

February 19th, 2007, 06:34 PM
My parents have been known to say that I came out swimming. I took lessons...those mommy and me lessons when I was 6months and quickly moved through the ranks of the American Red Cross lessons. I didn't start competitively swimming until I was in 6th grade however. I am very comfortable in all depths and types of water...in fact, I would love to spend a summer in the islands doing scuba exploration for sunken ships/airplanes and lost artifacts...that would be ideal.

I do however get nervous during swim practice even when we're required to do hypoxic sets. They're illegal in some places for insurance reasons...and well because people have died doing them. I do not have great lungs to begin with, so when our coach gives us 20x25 one breath on 25seconds I get really tensed up and after the first few 25s I get panicy and have to stop.

February 20th, 2007, 02:13 PM
Jeff (Muppet) and I have something in common. I have a huge fear of deep water. I have been in the water pretty much my whole life. Started competing at age 5 but if you get me around deep water or water that I can't see down into, I freak out. I have a fear of bridges over water and being in water (in a boat) under a bridge. I also grew up water skiing. Started when I ws 6. My parents owned a boat. But the fear was there and real. Even now, if I go in a boat under a bridge, I have to tuck my head in my lap and cover my ears. For the bridge over water, I can have panic attacks. I used to live in Portland, OR. One nickname is Bridge City. I got stuck on a draw bridge once and went into full panic attack mode. I had all windows rolled down for fear that the bridge will collapse and I would drown. I have had panic attacks on docks and when ever I realize I'm near deep water (BIG one in Pensacola on a concrete peir once near a sign that said "no swimming. deep water" ack!). But, I have managed to get past the fear for a while during a tour of an air craft carrier (didn't go near the edge) and a submarine, which was in the water.

No idea where this came from. I have never had a near drowning experience and I know how to swim well enough to save myself. You can certainly PM me.


Dolphin 2
February 28th, 2007, 12:45 PM
Dear Peter:
I have given this advice for people totally new to the art of swimming and may have a lot of discomfort or even a phobia about drowning.

I spent a while in Japan where the bathroom tub was actually a deep sink that could be filled with water to about 2-1/2 feet and this was the first time of my life where I experienced the basic sensation of “swimming”. So here’s my personal advice to anyone who has not learned to swim.

Before going to a pool, you might try sitting in the middle of a hot tub until you just become buoyant, which is about chin deep. Then you can just use some broad hand and arm movements to stay afloat. Once you know how to overcome that fearful sinking effect, you will be comfortable with getting in the pool and learning the basic swimming positions. If possible, stay in an area that is no more than 4 to 5 feet deep so if you become uncomfortable or panicky, you can just get on your feet.

Once you are comfortable being in the deep end of the pool, you can graduate to something more challenging (and a lot more fun to). :applaud:

Good Luck -

Dolphin 2 :)

February 28th, 2007, 01:39 PM
I've spent a lot of year in open water in Florida. Word of advice: don't be first; don't be last.:rofl:

This is true for sharks and the like, but the drafting effect is up 30 percent!

February 28th, 2007, 03:47 PM
I used to be just fine in water. Then I went to see "Jaws" ... and now everything I'm out alone in the ocean pretty far from shore I start hearing that theme music ... dum dum dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-dum do doooo .

Thanks, John Williams, for scarring me.