A question that you probably already know the answer to but have never bothered to ask is: do fish pee and poop in the water? The answer, of course, is yes. They don’t have toilets in the ocean by the way, so it just goes everywhere. The ocean is both a fish’s home and its toilet.
The reason why I bring up this topic is so that you are at least a little prepared as I transition to the next topic: humans peeing and pooping in the water. There’s no denying that people pee in the ocean, sometimes with a full wetsuit on, and they usually have a goofy grin and a look of satisfaction on their face.
Peeing in the ocean most people can accept because, let’s be honest, they are guilty of it themselves. The ocean is vast, and one’s pee quickly gets washed away and diluted. However, where many people draw the line is pooping in the ocean, also known as taking an aqua dump.
The thought of paddling around and suddenly coming face-to-face with a solid turd is cringe-inducing. “I’d never stoop so low!”, you might be thinking. However, imagine you’re paddling out under idyllic conditions, you finally made it past the break, when suddenly it hits you: you need to poop. Badly.
Your options are to: a) Paddle back to shore, prairie dogging it the whole way, or b) you can pull down your shorts and do your business right then and there. You might end up doing option B regardless if you can’t hold it in anymore. So, to answer the title of this post: Yes, surfers absolutely do poop in the ocean both intentionally and unintentionally.
This leads to some more interesting questions, such as the legality of pooping in the ocean, if human feces is bad for the ocean, and how feces can affect other surfers. We ask and answer all of these questions and more further down below.
How dirty is the ocean anyways?
Before we delve right into the heart of this matter, we need to first bring up some context. Eject from your head any notion that the ocean is somehow clean, and that surfers pooping in it is making it unbearably dirty for the rest. There are much worse things than some surfer’s poop in the ocean.
If you think about it, fish do everything in the ocean. They don’t just pee and poop; they also mate and prey on one another. In other words, you are also swimming in fish blood and sperm.
Even when we consider how much waste humans contribute to the oceans, our pee and poop, being organic and biodegradable, are hardly the issue. The real pollutants are things like sewage, chemicals, oil spills, and non-degradable waste that are really spoiling the ocean. When you’re surfing, you are essentially swimming in the world’s biggest toilet and garbage can in one.
This section isn’t intended to be an environmental conservation PSA, but rather to let you know that someone’s poop isn’t even necessarily bad for the ocean and it certainly is not the reason why the oceans are dirty. However, it’s probably a good idea to keep water from entering your mouth or getting in your eyes (e.g. with goggles) because you have no idea what’s in the water.
How many surfers poop in the ocean?
There aren’t any official statistics because who is going to admit that they do number 2s in the ocean? Also, how would you conduct this count and hope to get accurate results; are you going to walk up to every person on the beach and ask them if they just relieved themselves or not? As amusing as this scenario might seem, it’s not a productive use of time.
So all we are left with are anecdotes. I personally have defecated in the ocean (it wasn’t my plan to), and (knock on wood) I hope I never have to again. But that’s just because I am a clean freak. I don’t even like to use public toilets if I can avoid it. I make sure to do my business at home so that there’s no chance I need to do it in the ocean.
With that said, if I do feel the urge to do a number 2 while I’m in the middle of surfing, I would probably try to create some distance between myself and other surfers and do my business as discreetly as I can.
I have come across a few surfers who have admitted to pooping in the ocean. As far as I’m aware, they did it because it was an emergency; they don’t treat the ocean as if it were their toilet.
It’s probably safe to assume that, with anywhere from 17-35 million surfers in the world, there will be cases where surfers have had to poop in the ocean.
Thankfully, the ocean is unfathomably vast. It’s one of the few things where the word “epic” is truly warranted to describe it, and it’s not going to get clogged up by poop anytime soon. Not that we are recommending it, but the current amount of pooping into the ocean going on is not yet an issue due to how quickly the poop decomposes or is eaten by something.
Is it against the law to poop in the ocean?
This is another question that’s hard to answer because the laws will be different depending on your location.
Some countries are notoriously clean while others are notoriously dirty. For instance, in Singapore, you can get a hefty fine for just chewing gum (not even spitting it out or sticking it anywhere), expelling mucus from your nose, urinating or defecating anywhere but a toilet; even not flushing a public toilet is a fineable offense. Conversely, India is home to some of the world’s most polluted rivers so there isn’t really a universal consensus on what’s allowed or not.
With that said, declaring that it is illegal to poop in the ocean would be a controversial and hypocritical thing to do considering that currently it is legal for boats to dump their sewage directly into the ocean. Also, many cities and towns drain their sewage water into the ocean.
So even if there is no law specifically prohibiting defecating in the ocean, that doesn’t necessarily make it okay. For instance, at least in the USA, there are laws against public nudity and indecent exposure. Therefore, by pulling your shorts down and exposing your genitals while you try to poop, and also the act of defecating publically, you are still breaking a few laws that can get you in trouble.
Is pooping in the ocean bad for the environment?
If you perform an aqua dump, it probably will not have any long term consequences. However, in the short term, the poop might wash ashore or, hopefully, wash out to sea. It doesn’t take very long for your “log” to decompose or be eaten by something.
As for whether your poop is polluting the environment, the answer is generally no. You do not generate enough of it for it to be an issue. Human feces is organic, can decompose, and can be eaten by marine life.
The main issue is when there are large quantities of human feces entering the ocean simultaneously in a concentrated area; in other words, when sewage is dumped into the ocean. This can result in oxygen depletion due to the bacteria decomposing the organic waste. Furthermore, pathogens found in human feces can potentially contaminate marine life.
Additionally, what’s truly bad for the environment are things like global warming, hazardous waste, plastics, people not using reef-friendly sunscreen, and large quantities of sewage waste from coastal cities, towns, and the huge network of global ships dumping their waste into the ocean. Your one little poop is like a drop in the bucket of the ocean and will have almost no consequence.
How are surfers affected by human feces?
Due to human feces containing viruses, it is not a good idea to spend a lot of time around human excrement, however it is unavoidable in the ocean.
You can potentially come into contact with the pathogens contained in the feces due to surfers pooping around you, or from sewage runoff from coastal cities or towns. Depending on where you’re surfing, the coastline might not be as clean as you think.
The bacteria introduced to the ocean from human feces can cause norovirus (a.k.a. The stomach flu). Symptoms of norovirus include stomachaches, pink eye, skin irritation, nausea, vomiting and sometimes fever.
If that isn’t bad enough, in some rare instances, there may be flesh-eating bacteria that can enter your body through open wounds, piercings, or tattoos. That’s why it’s so crucial to thoroughly rinse yourself and your surfing gear after surfing.
If you feel the urge to poop in the ocean, here’s what to know:
We don’t recommend you “poo in the blue”, however sometimes you can’t control it. For those times where you can’t hold it in and have no choice but to take an aqua dump, here are some tips to minimize the damage.
Try to use the toilet before you go surfing
The most obvious way to prevent having to defecate in the ocean is if you can use the bathroom right before a surfing session. Therefore, you should have an idea of when you usually do your business and try to schedule your surfing session shortly after that time.
It’s good to have a set schedule and to not change your diet too drastically so that you can predictably poop at the same time each day. Try to eat plenty of fiber which can aid in clearing your bowels.
I find that drinking a large cup of coffee can act as the catalyst to kickstart my urge to poop. If you know you need to poop before you go surfing but don’t feel the urge, perhaps some caffeine will do the trick.
Keep some distance
In the same way that you shouldn’t fart in close proximity to others, you should keep some distance from other surfers in the lineup if you feel the urge to poop. It’s not just for hygiene but also to maintain some dignity.
You certainly don’t want your fellow surfers to see you spreading your cheeks with a constipated look on your face; your reputation would go down the toilet in an instant.
Also, yes, there’s also the hygiene to consider. As we mentioned, you can get other people sick with the stomach flu and they probably won’t take too kindly if they suddenly see a turd in front of them as they are paddling.
Brace yourself for the cold
The first time you poop in the ocean, it’s going to be an interesting experience. We’re used to coming into contact with water from the outside, but it’s a strange experience if water manages to get inside your body. Therefore, get ready for the cold ocean water flooding into your dilating sphincter as it opens up so that your stool can come out.
Nothing will draw as much attention to yourself as you suddenly yelping loudly due to not bracing for the cold. Then, all eyes will be on you spreading your cheeks apart and looking constipated. Not a good look.
Clean up after yourself
I’m going to assume everybody wipes after they finish doing a number 2. I’m also going to assume that, when you’re in the shower, you actually use your hands to wash your butt instead of just letting water trickle down into your crack.
Well, just because you’re in the ocean and water is all around you doesn’t mean you don’t need to wipe. You need to get in there with your hands. Sorry, you can’t exactly go around and grab some seaweed to wipe your butt the way you might be able to grab a few leaves in the forest.
Unless you want your boardies or wetsuit to have a brown stain, there’s no getting around this. Afterwards, you can paddle back to shore to give your hands a good rinse with soap and water. We recommend wiping your hands in sand first as well before you touch anything else.
Be aware of the water clarity
In order to reduce your chances of getting caught pooping in the ocean, you need to take the water clarity into consideration. If you generally surf beach breaks, then chances are this won’t be an issue due to the murkiness of the water.
However, if you’re lucky enough to be surfing in an area where the water is crystal clear, well this might be the one downside in a long list of positives. You likely won’t be able to hide the fact that you’re squeezing out a poop if people can clearly see you.
Now, hopefully you aren’t a voyeur that gets excited at the prospect of defecating in a public area with a chance of getting caught because then this might encourage you.
For us normal folks, here’s what you should do if you need to poop in water that has clear visibility: duck dive deep underwater, grab the reef to maintain your position, and then push with all your might. Your brown surprise will be quickly swarmed by the local fish, and no one will be wiser to the fact that you just took an aqua dump.
Time your poop
You can’t just poop anytime and anywhere you want – there’s actually an ideal time. You want to ensure that the poop will not end up on shore and that you are safe while doing a number 2.
If you poop during an incoming tide, then your feces will slowly make its way to shore and come into contact with unsuspecting beachgoers. This is disrespectful, unsanitary, and if it is done often enough, then I’m sure there actually will be laws against pooping in the ocean.
Not even paddling away from the lineup is going to solve this problem because the currents will simply carry your turd straight back to where you were and back to the beach.
You must also pay attention to the wind, swell, and current direction, not just for ensuring the poop goes where you want it to go but also so that you stay safe while pooping.
Watch for sets
My friend, you need to take great care when performing an aqua dump. Not only must you be cognizant of other surfers nearby, but you must also pay attention to the ocean itself.
Here’s a scenario that could potentially happen. You paddle out into the water, navigating the rocks and avoiding the break, finally reaching the backline only to feel a bad stomach ache. Since you’re the only person there and you are unsure if you can hold it in long enough to paddle back, you decide it’s better to just poop then and there.
So you pull your wetsuit/boardies down and squeeze it out but unfortunately, you just left yourself completely exposed. You look up and realize that the set has come and you’re caught in the impact zone with your pants down.
In normal situations, you’d just duck dive to avoid this. But with your wetsuit around your waist, the leash could easily wrap around your neck once you dive. If you don’t move, you could be sent crashing into the reef. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
So while pooping in the ocean is not necessarily a dangerous activity, if it causes you to forget that the ocean can be merciless, then yes it can be unsafe to poop in the ocean.
What’s the consensus on pooping in the ocean?
Pooping in the ocean seems to be in a gray area where, while there may not be any laws specifically against it, you might still be breaking some kind of law regarding indecent exposure or public nudity.
At the same time, if somebody catches you pooping in the ocean, it’s unlikely that they’ll paddle back to shore to call 911 and that’s if the cops will even come for such a trivial complaint.
Furthermore, as far as we know, your poop is not going to kill the environment the same way that littering plastics or wearing sunscreen with toxic chemicals can.
However, how is pooping in the ocean viewed from the perspective of the surfing community and average beachgoer? Everyone has different opinions on the acceptability of taking an aqua poo.
For instance, most of us have been through situations where we urgently needed to do number a 2 but didn’t have access to a toilet. So in some sense, many of us can empathize with the urgency of the situation and the lengths one might go to to not poop in your boardies/wetsuit, though we won’t exactly encourage you to make aqua poos a habit.
Surfers will get angry at you for doing a number 2 in certain situations such as if you do it too close to the lineup, if kids can see you, or if your poop somehow reaches the shore or reaches them. Also, nobody wants to see someone defecating in the ocean, so they may get angry at you for showing them such a sight.
That said, if you make an effort to paddle away from the crowd so that you’re out of sight, and time your poop so that the currents are traveling away from the lineup, or if you just duck dive and take an aqua dump fully submerged, then you should be fine.
How “acceptable” pooping in the ocean usually boils down to how much consideration you have of other surfers.
We realize that we might be shooting ourselves in the foot by discouraging you to poop in the ocean while also giving advice on how best to do so. However, it’s more that when nature calls, sometimes you have no choice but to do a number 2 then and there, so you might as well know the best practices to minimize the impact you have on others. This is the best compromise we came up with. For the love of God, aqua dump safely and responsibly, please.