Have you ever peed in your wetsuit? Come on, don’t be embarrassed. Seriously. We certainly have. It’s nothing to be ashamed about, really. In fact, contrary to what people might deny face-to-face, when given the anonymity of the internet basically every diver admits to doing it, and it’s actually quite a beneficial and normal thing to do so.
The point of this article isn’t to shame you or gross you out. Quite the contrary, the goal of this article is to make the argument that you should proudly wee in your wetsuit. It can be kind of a taboo subject when divers speak openly about peeing themselves. There is always that look of disgust or a moment’s hesitation before changing the topic. However, this is a socially conditioned behavior and adhering to it only encourages the stigma.
Many argue that peeing in your wetsuit is unhygienic. We agree, wetting yourself is unhygienic… if you do it on land. If you’re underwater, it’s a different story. The pee can actually provide some temporary warmth before it’s flushed away. Plus, you have total control over how thoroughly you’ll rinse it before the next dive.
Furthermore, you’re not doing yourself any favors by holding it in. There are many more reasons why you should pee in your wetsuit instead of holding it in, as well as many myths about it that need to be dispelled, both of which will serve as the focus of this article.
Peeing while diving is normal
On average, a healthy human adult should urinate at least 4-6 times a day. When you’re diving, that number will be a little bit higher for you. There is a phenomenon known as immersion diuresis that occurs that makes you want to pee when you’re in cold water.
Immersion diuresis is the medical term for what happens to our body when we enter water that is cooler than the air. This process is part of our mammalian dive reflex which is our body’s way of preparing itself for longer submersion to increase its chances of survival. This physiological process is the reason why all humans have the urge to pee when we are in cold water.
Here’s a simplified explanation for what our body does. When your body senses that it’s in cool water, it wants to stay warm so it sends blood from the arms, legs, skin, etc. to the major organs of the body. With the organs now full of extra blood, one side effect is that the kidneys think that you have excess fluid in your body, causing it to increase urine production to balance out the fluids in your body. The end result is, you really need to pee.
Drinking less water to pee less causes dehydration
Some divers mistakenly think that the reason they want to pee every time they go for a dive is that they consume too much fluids before a dive, so they cut back on it. This is a serious mistake. Dehydration can lead to many problems for divers and can potentially increase the chances of getting decompression sickness. Thus, instead of cutting back, you may want to drink more water to ensure you are hydrated.
Furthermore, you should preferably be drinking water, not alcohol, coffee, tea, or any other diuretic beverages before a dive. These drinks can actually make you even more likely to pee and therefore even more dehydrated compared to regular water.
Unfortunately, few people understand just how easy it is to get dehydrated while diving. You will begin to lose water even before you enter the water by sweating. Once you’re actually in the water, immersion diuresis will cause you to produce more urine and make you want to pee. On top of all of that, you can lose fluids from breathing compressed gas because it has virtually no humidity.
As you can tell, there are so many ways that fluid loss and dehydration can occur while diving, and that’s why it’s a terrible idea to cut back on water before a dive. To top it all off, the more dehydrated you are, the more unpleasant your urine will smell. So, instead of trying to prevent peeing during a dive (which can be dangerous), focus instead on staying as hydrated and safe as possible.
It’s not healthy to hold your pee
When you’re on land, you wouldn’t hold your pee; you’d let it out at your earliest convenience. When you’re underwater, the earliest convenience is basically anytime you’re underwater. Holding it in does you no good no matter where you are.
Did you know that holding in your pee can lead to UTIs (urinary tract infections)? The most common cause of UTIs is not urinating after doing a certain cardiovascular activity in bed and then sleeping right away. UTIs are pretty terrible, but it’s not even the worst thing that can happen. In extreme cases, the urine can get backed all the way up to the kidneys and cause an infection which can be life-threatening.
On top of that, if you make it a habit to hold in your pee, you can damage your pelvic floor muscles which are the muscles that let you control urination and bowel movements. They are also necessary in the enjoyment of the aforementioned cardiovascular activity done in bed, so it’s not a good idea to damage these muscles. When you need to go, just go!
It’s distracting to hold it in
It was so refreshing to hear the owner of a dive shop tell me that he is perfectly okay with his Open Water students urinating in their rental suits, and in fact he encourages it instead of telling his students to hold it in.
You might be thinking that’s disgusting! Those poor students must be wearing the most pee-riddled wetsuits ever. It sounds gross, but the logic is sound. The layer of water inside of a wetsuit is slowly being replaced by fresh water, so the pee will eventually get flushed out. Also, the dive shop owner can spend more time at the end of the day sanitizing the suits.
This is much more preferable than having the students be distracted and uncomfortable with their full bladder which they will probably release anyways because they can’t hold it in anymore. The students should just be focused on the dive so that they can be on top of their game. The dive shop owner was willing to do extra clean-up later to give his students the best chances of excelling in the course.
Plus, there just shouldn’t be any taboo over letting your body do what it is naturally supposed to do. The same is true when you’re diving for fun. If the majority of your dive is spent trying to hold in your pee, you’re not focused or having fun are you? And if you’re not focused, you might be making some questionable choices during the dive.
Pee in your wetsuit for longer bottom times
It took me a long time to get over the mental hurdle that was preventing me from peeing in my wetsuit. I just couldn’t do it; I felt so ashamed that I was willing to cut many of my earliest dives short just because I couldn’t hold it in anymore and needed to urinate in a more “appropriate” location.
The day I finally decided to let go and do the deed underwater, I nearly cried tears of joy (okay, that’s an exaggeration). However, I decided that I cared more about having a longer bottom time than the shame of peeing in my wetsuit. And now I wonder what’s there to even be ashamed of? I think it was more shameful to surface so quickly and frantically try to doff my gear just so I could take a quick wee. My dive buddy was a saint for putting up with me.
If you struggle to make it through an hour-long dive, friend, just empty your bladder and dive in peace. It will be like you acquired a superpower that significantly boosts your bottom time. Holding in your pee is simply an unnecessary exertion that will decrease your bottom time. This is especially applicable if you will be spending several hours underwater; I don’t think it is even physically possible to hold in your urine that long underwater.
Urine won’t damage your wetsuit
Nor should it damage your pride. There is nothing in urine that will damage your wetsuit. No flesh- or neoprene-eating bacteria. Just 95% water, 2.5% urea, and 2.5% other stuff, and it’s not going to damage the wetsuit seams or weaken the wetsuit. So stop treating urine like it’s some kind of corrosive acid; it’s basically just water.
A very legitimate concern, though, is how hygienic the wetsuit is after it’s been urinated in. Particularly with wetsuit rentals, it can feel a bit disgusting knowing that it’s been peed in by so many people. If it’s your own wetsuit, you have complete control over how well it is sanitized before your next dive, which is why you should ideally wear your own wetsuit.
When you’re renting a wetsuit, perhaps you shouldn’t be so pee-happy because it’s not your property and is disrespectful. If you’re worried others have peed in it, you can conduct a sniff test to determine if any less-than-pleasant smells are still lingering, and ask for a different wetsuit if so.
If your wetsuit starts to smell a bit funky, use soap or a household cleaner to eliminate odors. There are wetsuit cleaning solutions designed specifically for this purpose too, though we never had a need for them because soap works just fine.
Peeing like a pro
We’re very much for peeing in your own wetsuit, which is why we are pros and know the best ways to do it. If you have to go, try to go near the start of your dive rather than the end. This gives the urine more time to flush out of your suit.
If you pee near the end of your dive, you better “flush” your suit! Don’t wait until you’re on land before you realize that you smell like a urinal. Flushing the suit just means letting water rinse your wetsuit, clearing out the urine if any still remains. There are two ways to do this; consider doing both just to be safe.
The first method is to grab the chest of your wetsuit and pull it away a few times, kind of like how you might fan yourself with a hoodie on land. Open up the feet, neck, and wrist seals on your suit to let the urine flush out in all areas. Repeat as needed.
The second method is a bit more complicated. Roll into a head down position and release some bubbles from your regulator into your suit from the neck seal. You can also use your octopus to flush air through the suit. Make sure you have sufficient air remaining before you do this step.
If you don’t want your pee to smell too unpleasant, avoid eating foods that make urine extra smelly such as brussels sprouts, asparagus, garlic, and salmon. If you don’t own the wetsuit, try not to pee in it regardless of what you ate. Some poor dive shop employee will have to clean it.
Stop feeling guilty for peeing in your wetsuit
To sum it all up, don’t let anyone make you feel like a weirdo for peeing in your own wetsuit. As we discussed, because of immersion diuresis, your body will naturally be more inclined to pee when you’re in cold water.
Holding in your pee just makes you distracted and uncomfortable during a dive. Letting it all go will enable you to do more advanced dives because you no longer have an arbitrary rule that you need to surface to pee outside of your wetsuit. Also, as long as you wash your wetsuit thoroughly afterwards, there’s basically no downsides to it.
The steps some divers take in order to avoid peeing during a dive is downright dangerous. For instance, cutting back on water can lead to dehydration and an increased risk of getting the bends. Also, holding in pee can potentially cause a kidney infection or damage to your pelvic floor muscles. It can also distract you and may cause you to make poor judgments during the ascent because you want to pee so badly.
None of that is worth it. The day you accept that it’s okay to pee in your wetsuit is the day you are liberated from uncomfortable, shortened dives, and can begin to enjoy scuba diving to a greater degree.
You might be interested in reading about if it’s okay to fart in a wetsuit next, or if you’re feeling brave, read our article about pooping in the ocean.