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There are several ways you can breathe underwater.

The first and easiest way is to simply put a torch at face level, it will replace the water with air, but it be destroyed and pop off the wall quickly.

Another way is to carry some sugar canes (AKA Reeds/Papyrus) and quickly throw one down on your feet, and another on top of it, because of the weird way that water works, you will be able to place them if you are quick enough, but like the torch they will also be destroyed. This way might be better if you are gravel mining underwater.

But, gravel does spawn elsewhere than underwater.

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Q: How can you breathe underwater in minecraft because you really need to mine gravel for flint?
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