So as not to immediately overface him, first ground school him near water using a sending exercise. At first give him a good 20' of space. Send him between you and the water back and forth until he's walking calmly like it's not going to eat him. Then decrease the space to 15', then 10'. Keep going until A) He's feeling overfaced or B) He's so close he "accidentally" steps into the water. Then move on to send him back and forth through the water. That way you've established an entire exercise before ever involving the item in question. Once you get to the water, it should be such old news, he should be fine with it. Remember to reward every effort. Tell him how brave he is and how all the girls love him. Good luck.
You just have to see your distance...you don't have to like it.