All the reasons you should (proudly) pee in your wetsuit
They say there are two types of divers: those who pee in their wetsuits and those who lie about it. Most people who have been diving with me know that I quite proudly fall in the first group.
It’s not that I’m trying to gross people out by making pee jokes after dives (admittedly, I am slightly entertained by how uncomfortable this subject seems to make other divers from the United States). It’s just that I resent how taboo the subject can be. I’d much rather joke and laugh about it than feel ashamed or like I need to pretend I don’t smell bad when I sneak off to give myself and my suit an extra rinse after a long training day.
Today I’ve decided to write a little about why I think you should pee in your wetsuit and do it proudly, backed by both science and experience:
You need to pee more often while diving…and science says it’s totally normal (h3)
Doctors say the average healthy adult human should urinate AT LEAST 4-6 times a day. If you’re diving, you might as well throw this figure out the window thanks to a little thing called immersion diuresis (https://www.diversalertnetwork.org/medical/faq/Immersion_Diuresis_Urge_to_Urinate).
Immersion diuresis is the medical term for what happens to the bodies of swimmers and divers as a result of going into water that is cooler than the air outside and it is also a part of the mammalian dive reflex (https://www.deeperblue.com/the-mammalian-dive-reflex-and-how-it-helps-freedivers/). It is the reason why you have to pee more frequently when you’re in the water, especially colder water.
Here’s a very elementary explanation of how it works: When you enter cool water, your body is like “yikes! It’s cold and I need to stay warm!” so the blood vessels in your arms, legs, skin, etc. constrict. As a result, extra blood flows to your major internal organs and this then “tricks” your kidneys into thinking that you’ve got quite a bit of extra fluid in your system. The kidneys then produce urine to try and maintain a proper balance as they make “room” for the extra blood. As a result, you have to pee…usually quite often.
Dehydration is a serious concern for divers (h3)
Think you can solve the problem by simply drinking less fluid before a dive? Wrong. Dehydration can cause all sorts of problems for divers and is said to be a predisposing factor for DCS hits, therefore it’s critical to stay hydrated while diving (http://scubaguru.com/why-is-hydration-so-important-when-scuba-diving/).
Unfortunately, many people underestimate just how easy it is to get seriously dehydrated while diving (http://divermag.com/dehydration-and-diving/). Whether you’re diving wet or dry, you likely start losing fluids by sweating before you even enter the water. Then, once you enter the water, immersion diuresis causes even further fluid loss as the kidneys produce more urine. In addition, fluid loss via respiration is accelerated when diving because the compressed gas you breathe has virtually 0 humidity.
To top it off, if you consume coffee, tea, or other caffeinated beverages, you’re bound to lose even more fluids because these are all diuretics that further contribute to fluid loss and dehydration. The same goes for yesterday’s post-dive beer or mojito as alcohol is a diuretic too.
As you can see, it’s extremely easy to get dehydrated while diving, hence why it’s foolish to skip out on fluids prior to diving. Furthermore, the more dehydrated you are the more…erm…potent your urine will smell. So why not simply accept that you will need to pee during your dives anyway and focus more on staying as healthy and hydrated as possible? Your dive buddies will thank you.
It can be unhealthy to hold your pee (h3)
You may have heard that resisting the urge to urinate can cause UTIs (urinary tract infections), and while that is kind of true and UTIs are pretty terrible, it is not nearly the worst thing that can happen if you hold it for too long. In some cases, urine can get backed up into the kidney and then cause a kidney infection, which can carry some serious consequences.
Holding your pee for too long (https://youtu.be/Ze4Qmpq48AQ) on a regular basis can also damage your pelvic floor muscles (https://www.continence.org.au/pages/how-do-pelvic-floor-muscles-help.html) which are the muscles that give us control over urination and bowel movements. They also have a significant role in the enjoyment of certain non-diving-related recreational activities, if you catch my drift. So…it’s best not to risk damaging those very important muscles. If you’ve gotta go, just go.
A full bladder can be a dangerous distraction (h3)
I recently started doing some freelance work for another dive center and had to have a chuckle when the owner of the shop told me they ALWAYS tell their Open Water students to go ahead and pee in their (rental) suits if they have to.
As icky as it may sound, I agree with this person’s logic 100%. I would much rather spend some extra time at the end of a day sanitizing rental suits than have my students distracted by their bladders or counting down till the next bathroom break. I want my students to be as comfortable and focused as possible during their courses, even if that means I need to do extra clean-up later. Plus, as I mentioned before, I don’t think there should be any shame in letting your body do what it does naturally.
The same goes for fun diving. If you’re spending half of your dive feeling uncomfortable because you need to pee, you’re spending half your dive not 100% focused on the most important diving objective: completing the dive safely. In addition, you’re simply having less fun. Which brings me to my next point…
You can make longer dives if your bladder isn’t the boss (h3)
Here’s something embarrassing: I physically could not pee in my wetsuit until I had more than 100 dives. The day I finally managed to get past the mental/physical block that was preventing me from peeing during dives was worthy of a big celebration. Gone were the days of surfacing after a dive in excruciating bladder pain. Most of all, I knew I wouldn’t have to suffer the humiliation of surfacing from a dive and immediately ripping my BCD off and handing it over to a buddy whilst desperately yanking my wetsuit down over my bum to take a wee anymore.
It wasn’t until I started my sidemount course that I really started to see the benefits of my newfound skill…longer dives and training sessions were suddenly possible. Before it was a struggle to get through an hour-long dive, something I find laughable now as many of my dives lately are in the triple digits, and on days I’m teaching or assisting, I usually spend at least 3 or 4 hours straight in the water. Previously that would have been physically impossible for me, but now I just let it go.
Contrary to popular belief, urine will NOT damage your wetsuit(h3)
The bad news first: while you may have heard that urine is sterile (https://www.popsci.com/urine-sterile-drinking-pee), it is absolutely not sterile. The good news is that it’s not filled with neoprene or flesh-eating bacteria either. Human urine is said to be 95% water, 2.5% urea, and 2.5% a mixture of other stuff. Nothing in your urine will eat away at the seams of your wetsuit or create holes, so don’t worry about damaging your suit with a little bit of pee here and there.
That said, you should always be sure to properly rinse out your suit in freshwater after a dive to keep it in the best shape possible. If you pee in your suit, it’s ideal to give it a little extra care to prevent any less-than-pleasant smells from sticking around. If my suit ever starts to smell gross, I usually just add a little bit of Pinol or similar household cleaner to the water I rinse it with and it does the trick. There are also several specialized products available for this purpose, but I can’t be bothered to test them since I already found something that is cheap and works well for me.
There is NO shame in peeing in YOUR wetsuit… (h3)
The bottom line is: don’t let anyone (including yourself) make you feel gross for doing something your body does naturally, especially if it makes your dives more comfortable and safe, and enables you to do more advanced dives. Pee in your wetsuit to your heart’s content…and do it proudly.
One final note I would like to add is that while the dive center I mentioned in this post is 100% team pee in your rental wetsuit, that is not the case for MOST dive centers, so please be considerate and try not to pee in rental or otherwise borrowed wetsuits. If you absolutely have to do so, please offer to properly rinse and sanitize the suit before you return it…and if you pee in one of MY wetsuits you’d better bring me a beer (or six) too.