Contrary to what many might think, a balloon hat and a plane ticket to the Caribbean does not make you a world-class traveler! As a scuba instructor teaching on a tropical island, I am frequently asked offbeat questions regarding dive etiquette that are usually answered in a light and positive manner. In the interest of not offending anyone listening, a vanilla response may miss the mark. While there is no hope for anyone with white sunglasses and a bitchin’ Mustang back home, there is always room for the rest of us to learn a little social couth every now and then – especially when we’re getting a little close and personal with one another on the dive boat and there’s nowhere else to go. That’s why I’m starting a semi-regular series of articles titled, “Dive Etiquette for the Underwater Caveman” so that we can talk about some of the things others might not teach you when getting started in scuba diving.
Pro Tip: I don’t dive in your bathroom toilet, so please don’t pee in my boat!
Many of you have probably heard the old dive saying, “There are two types of divers; those that pee in their suit and those that lie about it!” This is usually the first response when a new diver is asking someone on a boat this question (myself included). It’s a reality that most will have to face at some point in their diving lifetime. Bathrooms are never readily available where some of the best diving is found. The anxiety and pain of waiting to go for one person, can impact the entire experience on the boat for all. In the words of the old Nike slogan, “Just do it!”
I’m sure we have all had at least one experience with “the smelly kid” in our lifetime. If you haven’t, then you probably are the smelly kid. Just sayin’. There is nothing that puts a damper on a dive trip like the overwhelming smell of fresh pee in a wetsuit. Wetsuits are designed to trap a thin layer of water inside so that your body can warm it up. Exiting the water without flushing the suit means you are wearing a thin layer of urine on the boat, and becomes more intense when you peel off your suit and it begins to bake in the warm Mexican Caribbean sunshine of Cozumel. The lasting stench of urine makes everyone eager to get away- whether that is underwater for dive #2 or back to the dock.
Here are some scuba diving etiquette tips to keep you from raining on anyone’s parade:
- Drink more water! My first thought when smelling urine is that they are not hydrating properly. When your body has the correct amount of WATER (not caffeine, alcohol, or sugar beverages) it needs to perform, your urine will be clear and odorless. Diving in saltwater further dehydrates your body and could put you at higher risk for dive-related injuries. Down a few cups before, frequently throughout, and before bed to prepare for the next day.
- Don’t forget to flush! The best way to remove the pee is to let in more water by pulling on the snug points of your wetsuit (neck, arms, and legs). Circulate the water in your neoprene multiple times during the dive. Unzipping your wetsuit before going up the ladder can help with any last-minute bathroom breaks you made towards the end. Don’t be afraid to get back in the water and rinse more if needed. Yes, if you can smell it we can too! Everybody will prefer that extra couple minutes rather than secretly wondering why you decided to share. Letting it marinate causes your suit to absorb it into the material, and will permanently embed into the neoprene over time.
- Good gear leaves no scent! The best way to maintain your equipment is a good soak in bleach water, with the neoprene turned inside out. Immediately follow with a separate soak (not a “dip”) in baking soda water before hanging to dry. The bleach water kills urine trapped in the neoprene, and baking soda neutralizes bleach that rapidly degrades gear if not rinsed completely. FYI – handing a pee suit to the dive crew for care, or plunging it into the community dip tank may change some newly forged relationships!