"To be, or not to be..." is the opening phrase of a soliloquy in William Shakespeare's play Hamlet. Poor 'ol Prince Hamlet contemplates death and suicide while waiting for Ophelia, the love of his life. Yah well no fine. As surfers it's a case of "To pee, or not to pee!" And that is the question....
Cos admit it, we all pee in our wetsuits. And if you say you haven't, chances are you're lying. The only ou I would believe is Ken, cos he often takes a quick slash next to the pipe at Millers before coming out for a paddle! But then hey, I guess pee'ing in your suit as a paddleskier is probably not so lekker.
Yssss, nothing beats a good pee in your suit when the water's icy. That feeling of warmth flowing up over your kidney's, aaaah. "Ag sies!" you say. Nooit. It's lekker. But the warmth is actually short-lived, and a bit of a con really.
What happens is that the warm urine opens up the blood vessels near your skin's surface and then these blood vessels think they are no longer cold and relax. So what happens is that when the warm wee gets washed away during your next duckdive or wipeout and cold water returns your blood vessels are no longer constricted, so they very quickly allow your warmth to be taken away before they realize, "Oi, it's cold again!" and constrict.
So what is it about surfing in cold water that makes us wanna pee?
It’s called Cold Water Immersion Diaresis. How it works is that when we go from a warm place (the beach) to a colder place (the sea) our body wants to save our brain and heart by gathering blood in these organs. So the veins in our arms and legs get narrower to be able to concentrate blood in the chest and central areas. This peripheral vasoconstriction is part of what’s known as the Mammalian Diving Reflex.
However, cos the body’s blood volume is now shifted into the core this puts pressure on the heart causing an increase in blood pressure. The body attempts to compensate for this increased blood pressure by relieving itself of liquid elsewhere. And guess what, the easiest and quickest way to do that is through pee’ing.
So see, there's a scientific reason why we pee in the surf!
It's not only the cold water to blame. A study published in the International Journal of Sports Medicine found that the compression exerted by wearing a wettie increased urine output. Seri-aaas.
They found the amount you pee'd when wearing a suit was 2-3 greater than if you were just sitting there in your boardies. Turns out the elastic recoil tension of a nice tight-fitting wetti behaves like a compression garment on the whole body. Just like those elastic stockings your grandma uses to help with her swollen ankles!
So here we are wearing rubber suits and happily pee'ing on ourselves. Eish!
But is it really that gross? Pee is organic and it is 95% water, as well as containing urea, ammonium, phosphates, calcium, sodium, uric acid, sulfates, magnesium and potassium. In a Bear Grylls survival situation you could drink it and still live. But it's probably not the stuff you want in your ear - so if you're in a hoodie suit maybe hold back on the golden gush.
The hiccup these days is that the top-end wetsuits are so well sealed they don't flush that much, so you could be sharing your suit with ya pee long after it's cooled down. Not so lekker. For every yin there's a yang!
Pissing in your suit does come with it's challenges though. First up, it can be a bit of a health hazard, leading to a rash that is very similar to nappy rash if you end up having a marathon sesh with frequent pee's. Your suits seams can create a bit of friction damage to your skin and the ammonia in your pee goes "Yebo, I'm in" and creates a rash.
If you pee in your suit lank and don't wash it properly you have a fungus farm waiting to happen and could end up with some gnarly infections from the lurking bacteria. Rule #1 - if you pee you rinse that suit!
When you're heading in after your sesh just open up your suit at the neck and give it a good seawater flush before you hit the sand. Cold? Ya! - but at least you don't take off your wettie in the carpark and stink like a public toilet! Cos that's siff.
And whatever you do, don't pee in your suit before your sesh! Cos seeing an ou leave wet footprints on the way towards the surf is sketchy as hang!
So you're a proud urinator. But does pissing in the water attract sharks? Is that leak you've just taken like ringing the dinner bell for the finned locals? Sharks have got a serious sense of smell and can pick up odors from a mile off. But they chow fish, and urine doesn't smell like fish, so not sure if they'll come flying over to see whassup if you do pee.
We've all done our own unintentional research on this by wee'ing regularly out in the surf and the majority of us haven't been chomped yet. Touch wood.
What would probably be a wise idea is if you need to pee is save it til you in the white water after finishing riding a wave. Give your suit a quick flush in the frothy turbulent water and the wave action will help disperse it quickly and then you paddle back to the line-up and away from it, vs just letting go whilst you sitting out the back waiting for waves and it's just gonna float around you acting like a beacon.
Can pee'ing in your suit damage it? The theory is that it can chow your rubber seam seals and the neoprene, but there doesn't actually seem to be any hard evidence to support it. So the jury is out on that one.
Nonetheless you gonna have to make a plan if you don't want your suit to stink. Cos piss smells like piss! Other than giving it a seawater flush before getting out, make sure you give it a good rinse in clean water. Hot water if you can, cos this kills the buggies that can linger and cause a smell.
Every now and then give it a bit of extra love and care and wash it properly. There are commercially available "wetsuit shampoos", else just use your regular shampoo. Apparently Listerene mouthwash works well to solve the pong issue too.
So go ahead and happily pee in your suit. It's scientifically proven to be normal, it warms you up briefly, it shouldn't make you shark bait and who the hang is gonna get out mid-sesh and run into the dunes for a slash anyway!?