It’s not uncommon to have hesitations or even a phobia of deep water. Not being able to see the bottom can throw even the most experienced snorkelers. I know that every time I jump in the open blue water to try and swim with a pod of dolphins or whale sharks and there is nothing but blue water below me I have to make a slight adjustment to my mental state and just remind myself that floating in the blue is no different to floating just above a reef. I know, easier said than done since phobias such as this are irrational and your typical pragmatism on land goes right out the window the moment you lose sight of the bottom. This fear doesn’t always have to control us though, and if we take the proper approach that involves both mentally and physically preparing ourselves, we can hopefully find ourselves confident and comfortable snorkeling in deep water. Here are a few steps that we have found to be helpful.
Become Accustomed to the Environment
Learning about the ocean is a great first step in helping control your deep water phobia. In understanding what is actually going on below you as you snorkel should then help curb any unwarranted fears by cultivating a positive state of mind about the ocean and deep water.
There are some really amazing underwater documentary movies and series which do an amazing job of capturing the beauty and reality of the underwater world. Some of the best ones are My Octopus Teacher, BBC Blue Planet I & II, BBC Planet Earth, and Oceans. I highly suggest NOT watching NatGeo’s Shark Week or Sharkfest as they really tend to only sensationalize the fear based around sharks and shark attacks and not the reality of a shark’s normal response to snorkelers, which is to either ignore us or swim away. You are more likely to be injured by your toilet than by a shark by huge margin.
Slowly Introduce Yourself to the Environment
Rather than just plunge yourself into the open blue water, I highly recommend starting off by slowly introducing yourself to it by letting yourself get accustomed to the shallow reefs and sandy bays first. If your phobia is quite strong, the shallow end of a pool is best and then work your way up to larger bodies of water. As you progress to deeper waters you may want to use an inflatable snorkel vest, a life jacket, or even additional flotation ring to give yourself an added layer of comfort. Also, don’t forget to do this with a snorkel buddy who’s already very comfortable in the water.
Mental Game Plan
Even as your confidence with the water grows, it’s a great idea to have a mental game plan just incase that irrational fear does start to creep back in. Before each snorkel session make a little plan to help calm yourself down and regain control of your emotions. What I mean by this is, the moment you start to feel the panic coming back you need to give your brain something else to do, like count to one-hundred, identifying ten different species of fish, or just concentrating on a steady rhythm of breathing. It helps if you pick just one thing as too many different options can lead back to a non-focused state of mind and then the fear comes back. For me, I focus on listening to every inhale and exhale to keep them as steady and relaxed as possible. As I do this, I slowly swim back to a more comfortable depth until I feel like I’m back in control again.