Peeing in the Wetsuit - Legit or Not?
As the old saying goes, there are two types of divers: those who pee in their wetsuit and those who lie about it. Diving with a drysuit adds two more dimensions to this: those who don’t pee in there drysuit and those who should lie about about it! And hence, for drysuit wearers at least, the creation of the aptly named p-valve.
The p-valve is usually installed on the inner thigh. Installation and use are very simple: to install, a small hole is punched in the drysuit, silicone is applied to the valve, and the valve is put in place. The valve unit has a hose attached to it which to the penis. (Disregard the last statements if you are a lady, there are options for you and the hose routes to your genital area.)
The diver wears a condom that attaches to the urination tube. The diver makes the final attachment to the drysuit before donning the upper body of the suit. When attached, the diver can urinate into the condom. The urine goes through the tube, out the valve, and into the water. It is quite simple and an excellent way to maintain comfort.
Scientists are of course aware of one’s need to urinate while wear a suit, wet or dry. It’s the norm amongst divers – even if they don’t all admit to it. This very normal need is a unique underwater phenomenon called immersion diuresis. Immersion diuresis literally means “water loss due to immersion,” and is a physiological response to being submerged in water and actually part of the Mammalian Dive Reflex. When one drops into water that’s colder than the ambient air temperature, vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels) occurs. Extra blood is sent to the central organs, which the body interprets this as a fluid overload. The body signals the kidneys to produce urine and the brain signals that it’s time to drain the main vein.
In layman’s terms: warm air + cold water = need to pee.
What can you do to avoid immersion diuresis?
- Avoid diuretics like caffeine before you dive.
- Intentionally dehydrating yourself might seem like a good idea, but dehydration increases fatigue and predisposes you to decompression sickness.
- Try to stay warm. A side effect of your body's response to cold is the production of urine. Wearing a hooded vest under your wetsuit may save you from having to empty your bladder when you least want to. On the boat, stay out of the wind, bundle up and wear a hat.
- Be healthy, sober and rested. A variety of over-the-counter and prescription drugs can interfere with your body's heat conservation mechanisms, typically by preventing the constriction of blood vessels near the skin. Antihistamines are particularly suspect. Alcohol is worse.
- Although adipose tissue insulates well, allowing fat people to tolerate cold water immersion longer than lean people, it's better to be physically fit.
However as humans, the need to pee will always be here. However, now you know that peeing in your wetsuit is a totally legit thing to do – really it’s science. You have permission to no longer feel weird or ashamed. All the cool kids are doing it! Just make sure that you drink a lot of water before and after your session to avoid dehydration!
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