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  • Writer's pictureEmma Tanti

Conquering the Depths: How to Overcome Your Fear of Open Water Swimming



Open water swimming offers a unique and exhilarating experience, allowing swimmers to connect with nature while challenging their physical and mental boundaries. However, for some individuals, the thought of venturing into open water can be daunting and anxiety-inducing. Fear of the unknown, vastness, and potential dangers lurking beneath the surface are common reasons that prevent many from taking the plunge.


If you find yourself longing to embrace the open water but are held back by fear, fear not! In this blog post, we will explore practical strategies to help you overcome your fear of open water swimming and embark on a transformative aquatic adventure.


Acknowledge Your Fear


The first step to overcoming any fear is acknowledging its existence. Embrace the fact that you have reservations about open water swimming, and understand that it's entirely normal. Fear is a natural defense mechanism designed to protect us from potential threats, but sometimes it can be overly cautious. By recognising your fear, you can work towards addressing it constructively.


Here are some of the most common open water swimming fears:

  • Fear of Fish/Creatures/Plants in the water

  • Fear of not being able to touch the bottom or sides

  • Fear of cold water

  • Fear of swimming in a wetsuit

  • Fear of swimming in a group

Start in Familiar Surroundings


Before diving headfirst into the vast ocean or a deep lake, practice in a controlled environment such as a pool or a calm, shallow bay. This will provide a sense of security and help build your confidence in the water. Gradually extend your comfort zone by venturing to deeper areas in the pool, replicating the sensation of being in open water.


Learn and Improve Your Swimming Skills


One significant factor contributing to the fear of open water is the lack of swimming proficiency. Investing time in improving your swimming technique and stamina will make you feel more capable and secure. Consider taking swimming lessons with us, so that we can guide you through various strokes and water safety techniques.


Buddy Up for Support


Open water swimming becomes much less intimidating when you have a swimming buddy or join a group. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals who share similar fears can be reassuring and motivating. Additionally, having someone by your side for encouragement and safety provides an added sense of security. There are several open water groups on Facebook that one can join who frequently do weekend group sea swims, and this is definitely a good place to start!


Gradual Exposure to Open Water


Once you've built your confidence in the pool or shallow waters, it's time to venture into the open water step by step. Begin with a calm and well-supervised beach with lifeguards on duty, with a highlighted safety buoy attached to you. Acquaint yourself with the new environment, focusing on the beauty of nature rather than the unknowns. As you grow more comfortable, you can progress to more challenging open water settings.


Breathing and Relaxation Techniques


Fear and anxiety can lead to shallow breathing and increased tension in the body. Learning breathing and relaxation techniques, such as deep diaphragmatic breathing, can help you stay calm and composed while swimming in open water.


The first thing to do is see what your dry breath-hold is right now. You need to see what you can achieve now to understand what you can get to with continued training:

  1. Sit on a comfy chair or lay on a bed.

  2. Breathe calmly and slowly for 2 minutes – No deeper or faster than you would normally.

  3. Take a deep breath in, then exhale everything, then take a really deep breath in… as deep as you can manage.

  4. As you hold your breath, relax and think of other things.

  5. When you cant manage anymore take some deep inhales to recover. Always focus on your inhales and not your exhales when recovering!

How did you do?

1 minute or less = 3 minutes

1:30 minutes (approx) = 4 minutes

2+ minutes = 5 minutes


We are going to use this time as a prediction of what you will be able to get to in one months time.

You may do better, you may do worse. Some people respond to training better than others, there are no fixed rules that we can use to precisely gauge your potential but after years of instructing people how to hold their breath these numbers are a pretty good guide. But remember, it will involve training… and lots of it. Your overall fitness levels will also affect how quickly you improve. If you are quite unfit yo may find you peak early and will struggle to go beyond that point. Practice these techniques regularly, both in and out of the water, to condition your body to respond positively to stress.


Visualise Success


Visualisation is a powerful tool for overcoming fears and achieving goals. Take a few moments each day to visualise yourself confidently swimming in open water. Picture the scenario vividly, from stepping into the water to completing your swim triumphantly. This mental rehearsal can rewire your brain to associate positive emotions with open water swimming.


Set Realistic Goals


Set achievable and progressive goals for your open water swimming journey. Celebrate each milestone you reach, no matter how small. By setting and accomplishing realistic goals, you'll boost your confidence and motivation to tackle more significant challenges.



Overcoming the fear of open water swimming is a transformative process that requires patience, determination, and self-compassion. Embrace the journey, and remember that everyone's progress is unique. By acknowledging your fear, gradually exposing yourself to the open water, and building your swimming skills, you'll find yourself conquering the depths and embracing the beauty and freedom of open water swimming. Embrace the challenge, and let the waters guide you towards a newfound sense of strength and liberation.


Happy swimming!

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