Fear of drowning is a strong predictor of no or low swim ability. This study’s purpose was to better understand fear of drowning among youth by examining personal, behavioral and environmental factors. Links between swimming participation, desire to improve swimming skills, swimming instruction method, and fear of drowning were also explored. Youth (n = 1,909) in six urban markets were surveyed at local YMCA branches. Level of agreement with fear of drowning (high fear [HF]; low fear L[F)] was cross analyzed with participation, desire to improve skills, instruction method, and selected personal, behavioral, and environmental factors. Significant differences emerged between LF and HF youth regarding participation, desire to improve skills, and instruction method. Several personal, behavioral, and environmental factors were significantly related to fear of drowning. Findings can help explain how drowning fear develops and possibly guide intervention design to enhance swimming competence.