To pee or not to pee. That is the question! What are the pros and cons of peeing in your wetsuit?
It’s often said that you either pee in your wetsuit or lie about not peeing in your wetsuit…
But should you do it? Are there any advantages to it, what exactly are the disadvantages, and why do you want to pee so much once you hit the water?
While the exact figures for who does and who doesn’t, doesn’t seem possible – it seems it is still one of those subjects that we are all a little shy to admit, the figures are likely to be very high. Most likely over 90% of all wetsuit users (so our divers, surfers and other watersport enthusiasts) have peed, or choose to regularly pee, in their wetsuits!
On a personal note, I used to pee in my suit, however stopped about ten years ago after it kept giving me a rash that looked like prickly heat. Grossed out yet?!
So, with all this peeing going on, why do we do it?
Peeing in Your Wetsuit: Why do we do it?
- Necessity. Sometimes, when your in the sea, in the middle of a dive, you get caught short. It happens! In cold water the last thing you want to do is take down the bottoms and pee in the sea then pull them back up again.
- Convenience. So, you’re having the dive of your life – do you really want to interrupt your dive, clamber back on board (or head to shore), strip off, pee and then wrestle your suit back on, when you could easily just……relax…..?!
- To keep you warm. Ah, now this is an interesting one! More about this later.
- It’s natural to want to pee in water. More about this later, too!
Peeing in Your Wetsuit: Should you just hold it?
Prolonged delay in peeing when the urge is there can cause a number of issues. These issues include:
- Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
- Bladder Stretching
- Damage to pelvic floor muscles
- Kidney Stones
While holding your pee occasionally will have no longer term effects, those who regularly dive should be aware of the long term damage ‘holding it’ can have.
Peeing in Your Wetsuit: Should you just reduce your liquid intake before you dive?
To prevent peeing in your wetsuit, it would be simple to say just don’t do it. However, this is easier said than done. You may think that by drinking less before your dive you will reduce the urge to pee. However, this can be one of the most damaging approaches to have – not only for your health, but also for your suit.
Think about it. You reduce your liquid intake to reduce the urge to pee, which means your are potentially diving dehydrated. This has the potential to increase the risk of decompression sickness, which is never a good idea! On top of that, and obviously less serious, is that your urge to pee will still be there ( you can thank Immersion Diuresis for that), only now because you are dehydrated, your pee is stronger, more acidic and more damaging to your suit!
Peeing in Your Wetsuit: Should you change your food intake before you dive?
There are a number of different foods that are recommended to avoid before a dive, due to the affect they can have on the odour of your pee. Vitamins (including B6) that enter the body are often expelled through urine. When you consume lots of B6 your urine smells different. Bananas, salmon, turkey, chicken, potatoes and fortified cereals all come packed with vitamin B6. These foods may not actually affect your dive, but they can affect your wetsuit! Peeing in your wetsuit not only soils it, but it makes it stink!
Peeing in Your Wetsuit: Does it really warm you up?
This is the science-y bit! The answer is yes and no. To be more precise, briefly, yes, but in the long term, no…
So why is this?
When we pee, our urine is body temperature. When this flows against our cooler skin, the sensation is warming. However, this triggers a response in our receptors that tell us our body is now warm, causing our veins and capillaries to relax and expand to help absorb that welcome warmth. As soon as our urine cools, which, let’s face it is going to be pretty rapid, our body now has to contend with our cooler environment again (which after the momentary bliss of feeling warm, feels even colder as our expanded veins and capillaries are now absorbing our cooler environment and take time to contract and ensure our blood is concentrated on our vital organs). All this takes time and energy to make the body feel warm again.
Peeing in Your Wetsuit: Should you let it go?
Our bodies work in the most efficient way possible, because of this there is a completely natural process called Immersion Diuresis This happens when our bodies are immersed in cooler water than our surrounding temperature. So, what happens?
Immersion diuresis= causes a person’s body to increase urine production. This is brought on by pressure caused by full body immersion in water, peripheral vasoconstriction and a reduction in body temperature.
Water draws heat away from the body, leading to vasoconstriction of the blood vessels in order to conserve heat (The mammalian dive reflex also causes peripheral vasoconstriction which has the same effect). In response to the resultant increase in blood pressure, the body inhibits the release of the anti-diuretic hormone ADH, also known as vasopressin, causing increased urination.
Increased water pressure on the body also increases blood pressure, no matter the water temperature, again increasing urination. All of which means it’s incredibly easy for freedivers to rapidly become dehydrated. Consequently it is important to keep your fluid levels up during a long dive session. A headache and bad breath are both indicators of dehydration.
Are There Alternatives To Peeing (or not) in Your Wetsuit?
Some divers have opted for the adult nappy. Which does work, but takes some getting used to. It’s also fair to say it is not a popular choice, particularly as they are not very environmentally friendly, comfortable or hygienic! I have never tried one and highly doubt it would hold the prodigious amount of wee I can produce. In addition, this is only really going to work in a dry suit, not a wetsuit which us freedivers use.
But, the P Valve (or She P for women) is often touted as an alternative.
The concept is based loosely on a catheter which collects the urine and allows it to be released via a valve. The device can work remarkably well for men, but for women success is a little more elusive, though the She P has made huge leaps forward in the overall success rate of using the device.
The P valve can be fitted during manufacture or retrofitted to your suit and does require a thorough hygiene routine during cleaning. Also, for men, the device is glued to your most vital organ, so prepare for some eye watering attempts to remove it afterwards. Also, don’t forget about equalising! Make sure every available air space is filled before you descend!
The She P follows a similar process to the P Valve and requires the same level of hygiene care. Again, this device is glued to your most intimate area, so if ever there was a reason to ‘tidy up’, note that a thorough shave is essential!
Both the P valve and She P are designed for scuba divers in dry suits. If you want to try and adapt it for freediving then you’ll need to cut a hole in your suit and then glue it. Not a good idea when you could be creating a passage for cold water to get in…
Personally, if you’re diving with us at Vobster then there is absolutely no excuse to for peeing in your wetsuit as the toilets are right by the water. Indeed I make it clear that anyone who pees in one of our hire suits will have to buy it…
If you’re in warm water or feeling brave, the other option (as long as you are not wearing a farmer john style pair of bottoms), is to take the top up, pull the bottoms down, bare your derriere to any fish or scuba divers below and let it all go…
What are the pros of peeing in your wetsuit?
- Instant relief and a momentary feeling of warmth!
- Responding to your natural urge to pee
- You are not distracted from your dive by the urge to pee
- Convenience for you and your fellow divers
What are the pros of NOT peeing in your wetsuit?
- Your suit will not smell
- You won’t get a rash
- You will need less time to clean your suit
- Your suit will usually last longer
What are the pros of using a P Valve instead of peeing in your wetsuit?
- You can enjoy longer dives (particularly if you are a technical diver etc) with being distracted.
- Your wetsuit stays urine free
- Your suit may last longer
- Instant relief
- Responding to your natural urge to pee
- Convenience for you and your fellow divers
What are the cons of peeing in your wetsuit?
- It will cause your body to cool and use extra energy to warm back up
- You could end up with a nasty nappy rash
- You suit will become soiled
- Your suit will smell and you will have to spend extra time cleaning it to remove the smell
- People with a keen sense of smell will no longer want to be your friend
- Your suit may get damaged
- You have to be careful of what you eat prior to your dive
What are the cons of NOT peeing in your wetsuit?
- You may have to fight the natural urge to pee, which can be distracting throughout your dive
- Your dives may be shortened or interrupted because you, your buddy or others may need to return to the surface
- You may suffer from a number of short or longer term health issues associated with resisting the urge to pee
- You may risk diving dehydrated to try and reduce the urge to pee, which if severe could also lead on to decompression sickness.
What are the cons of using a P Valve instead of peeing in your wetsuit?
- There is an additional cost to buy the P Valve
- It is difficult to use with a freediving wetsuit
- If retrofitting, and you choose not to fit the device yourself, you will also have the cost of having it fitted to your suit
- There is a higher risk of UTI
- You need to maintain a high level of cleanliness for your P Valve
- It can cause pain if you have not fully equalised the valve
- It can be painful to remove
- It can fail, defeating the purpose of the device
The general consensus is, that peeing in water is a natural, bodily reflex. On top of this, doing so can prevent some unwelcome side effects of holding that pee in. We think peeing during your dive comes with the territory however believe that unless completely avoidable, it is always best NOT to pee in your suit!
Peeing in Your Wetsuit: The Rules
There are some definite do’s and don’ts when it comes to peeing in your wetsuit, as well as certain rules when hiring or borrowing suits belonging to others. We guide you through this landmine!
What are the ‘peeing in YOUR wetsuit’ rules?
Now, this is interesting, and note there is a ‘YOUR’ in the question. From this it is fair to assume you own your wetsuit and therefore want it to last as long as possible, want to reduce damage as much as possible and want to know the best ways to care for your wetsuit post-pee.
- Don’t pee on a first date! If you are wearing your brand new wetsuit for the first time, allow the ocean to give it a thorough soaking through and remove any trace chemicals from it’s original manufacture that may interact with your pee. Also, remember, if you do find a fault with your suit and need to return it, it won’t be accepted if they trace urine on it!
- When you ‘do the deed’, try to pee early in your dive, this will allow extra time for the ocean to clean your suit.
- Flush your wetsuit to allow the urine to escape. You can do this by holding the chest of your wetsuit and pulling it away from your body once or twice and then pulling on the collar or cuffs of your suit to release, a few times.
- Try not to pee too close to your buddy!
- Always, always drain and rinse your suit and socks after diving
- Wash your wetsuit thoroughly and dry inside out, preferably on a line or natural drying environment and as flat or uncrumpled/unfolded as possible.
- Don’t pee at least 10 minutes before you leave the water to allow the urine time to be expelled from your suit.
What are the ‘peeing in SOMEONE ELSE’S wetsuit’ rules?
As everyone knows there are two different types of ‘someone else’. The ‘someone else’ who is a friend or a buddy and the ‘someone else’ who is your dive school, local dive centre hire kit supplier etc. We would love to say the same rules apply to both – in fact we really think they should. It’s all about respect, after all. So, as far as we are concerned there is just one rule relating to peeing in someone else’s wetsuit; DON’T DO IT!
Hints and Tips For Cleaning After Peeing In Your Wetsuit
If you’ve invested in a wetsuit, chances are you want it to last. There are numerous products you can buy to clean your suit and manufacturers provide comprehensive guides regarding the care of your wetsuit, but is there anything else you can do to keep your suit fresh?
One product that has attracted praise for its results is the aptly named ‘Piss Off’ by Rip Curl, but there are plenty out there that all promise to eliminate odour without damaging your suit.
Other suggestions we have received:
“You should also avoid washing your suit in warm/hot water as this can affect the glued parts”
“…use a little vinegar when rinsing your suit to neutralise the ammonia”.
“…a little bit of mild laundry detergent does the trick…”
Samantha Rutt – one of our students, found a novel, super efficient way to clean her suit straight after her dives.
I have a watertight barrel in the boot of my car, ready post-dive.
I fill the barrel about half full with water and cleaner solution (piss off -as it’s biodegradable).
When I’ve finished my dive I put my wetsuit straight in the barrel in and screw up the watertight lid.
Driving home, the car movement causes the suit to have a good soak and slosh around in the mixture so that my suit is clean by the time I get home!
All I need to do when I get home is give it a rinse and let it dry so that is is smelling fresh for next time!
If you have found an effective, novel way to clean your wetsuit, let us know and we may add it to our blog too!
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