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Alex Griffin

Everyone knows that diving makes you need the toilet: before a dive, during a dive, after a dive. In many ways diving is simply an activity that punctuates trips to the loo to urinate like a race horse.

Diving in a wetsuit makes this problem a lot less of an issue. There are only two types of diver, those who wee in their wetsuits and those who lie about it. As a dive centre owner I have come to realise that novice divers view rental wetsuits as all over body adult nappies and their own bodily fluids as a way to provide a quick warming interlude on a dive in Wraysbury. If anyone wonders why the viz is sometimes poor in Wraysbury itís nothing to do with silt, it is in fact the vast rivers of urine exiting from the neck, wrist and ankle seals of entry level 7mm steamers in close proximity.

I remember renting a wetsuit out to a pleasant and attractive young lady for a weekendís diving. After returning it I took it downstairs to unpack and found the wetsuit inside out. As I unrolled one of the legs I was sprayed in the face with a small pocket of liquid that turned out to be pungent smelling urine. This is just one of the many advantages of running a dive centre.

But vile smelling wetsuits and being sprayed in the face with wee is not what I wanted to discuss with you today. I would like to discuss the opposite problem faced by drysuit divers: Being zipped into a waterproof bag and needing the loo. So why do divers need the loo so often? Well the first reason is psychological: Quite simply if you tell someone they canít do something for a certain period of time thatís all theyíll want to do. So if you know that from the moment youíre zipped into the suit you wonít be able to go to the loo until after the dive, your brain will send evil twitching signals to the bladder.

The other reason is more physiological: The pressure ex- erted by the water on your body causes a minute shrinkage of the blood vessels in your skin forcing blood to your core which your brain interprets as fluid overload. Then as the pressure decreases on ascent, all this excess fluid in the blood finds itís way into your bladder (Is this right Jules? I read this somewhere once, it sounds good and I couldnít be bothered to check it).

When you couple all this with the fact that we learn to re- main well hydrated as divers to minimise any DCS issues we have a recipe for full bladders and no relief...

The first issue faces all divers to some degree or other. I certainly remember this being a much bigger problem as a newer diver although I now find that it doesnít bother me so much.

The second issue tends to be more of a problem at the end of a dive and when you only have a 3 min safety stop to do before you can get to the loo itís not that big a deal. Howev- er from a tec diverís point of view, with a long chunk of deco to do, this can be much more uncomfortable.

The scuba industry has come up with a number of solutions to this problem in drysuits (none of which, frankly, are much cop if youíre a lady).

The first solution I tried was to have a pee-zip installed in my first drysuit. The idea behind this is to have a short drysuit zip on the front of the suit. Whilst this doesnít solve the problem of what to do in the water it does at least allow for a last minute tinkle before the dive, especially when diving off RIBs where there are no toilets and you have to stay in your suit. Or at least, that is the principle.

The reality of a pee-zip is that, despite it appearing to be quite wide with a decent opening, the actual part of the zip that opens up the suit is incredibly small. The zip is also very stiff and naturally wants to return to its closed position so at- tempting to hold it wide enough to exit the old chap requires a large amount of strength and dexterity. When you factor in the effect of cold upon a gentlemenís special place and the rolling nature of the sea I can tell you that attempting to extricate oneís penis through a pee-zip on the side of a RIB is akin to catching a baby field mouse in itís burrow and then trying to pull it out through a bear trap all whilst riding a roller coaster.

So after one or two highly advanced episodes of Ďgrating the cheddarí (see Rogerís Profanisaurus for a definition) Iíd had enough of pee-zips and mine stayed firmly zipped shut. This also went hand in hand with the fact that pee-zips tend to introduce a huge failure point in drysuits and I still remember the neoprene pulling apart next to the zip at the start of a very, very wet dive. That suit was binned shortly afterwards. I decided that tactical urination was a far better way of deal- ing with the issue and simply got on with things. This was until recently when a number of dives with long deco stops and the joy on the faces of those who had one installed made me decide to purchase a P-valve.

P-valves are essentially a small device that contains a mushroom valve. On the inside of the suit you have a long hose. To connect your todger to the hose you have to wear a condom catheter (it doesnít go in...) which sticks to your dick and has a connector on the end to plumb into the hose of the p-valve. The valve is balanced so when you need to wee all you do is go and the wee flows down the tube and out of the mushroom valve into the water. Or at least that is the principle.

Letís deal with the condom catheters first. Iíd been informed that P-valve use involves a decent trim of the balls and shaft, one diver I know claims to use Veet although I believe he may just have been excited by the Amazon prod- uct reviews which have become a bit of an internet meme. I studiously had a good old trim with a beard trimmer, which I incidentally recently lent to someone (have some of that James) and then on the day of the dive went to attach the condom. It was surprisingly simple. The catheter contains a band of glue that attaches it to the shaft and keeps it pretty solidly in place. Later on when I went to remove it, it came away fairly easily without much pain and I was pleasantly surprised. Unfortunately I hadnít had a chance to use the thing in anger because the diving was blown out, but I was optimistic about the next trial.

Fast forward to the next attempt: A weekend teaching multi- ple courses at Vobster followed by another day of tec skills. I had managed to get my hands on another brand of condom catheter and on Saturday morning wandered nonchalantly into the toilets to fix it on. At first inspection the condom appeared similar, but it was definitely stickier and slightly more amorphous. Still, I forged ahead and blithely began to attempt to roll it on. Instantly, something was wrong. The condom appeared to be comprised almost exclusively of glue that bonded harder than superglue. My glans was now mashed into the top of the condom whilst it was only partly unrolled with the rest stuck to my scrotum.

I tried to readjust and almost lost skin. Panic began to set in. Stop, breathe and think. Total commitment. I unrolled the rest of the condom and felt it bond irreparably with my skin. A worrying amount of hair was also trapped under the glue. It hurt to move.

I had courses to teach and figured I had no choice but to carry on. At least I had no fear that it would come off by ac- cident. I attached the tube of the P-valve to the catheter as I donned my suit and then carried on with the day. Eventually the need to urinate arose and the next problem presented itself. Letís set the scene: Imagine going to the loo now. In your trousers, as youíre sitting here reading this blog. Could you overcome those years of mental conditioning that stop you from randomly wetting yourself in your clothes? Go on, try - wet yourself. Do it. You canít can you? This is kind of what you have to do, it feels so wrong to just relax those muscles in your clothes. I was floating in the water and had to concentrate hard... Eventually I was able to begin. There was a hot sensation that felt like I might be wetting myself. I glanced down at the valve and saw the reassuring shimmer as water of 2 different temperatures mixed and realised that from this point on I would always be able to demonstrate thermoclines.

Iíd cracked it. I was happy, this was the start of a new world of diving where I could stay in my drysuit, I wouldnít have to run up the pontoon at Chepstow, desperate for the van. Everything was going to be alright.

And everything was going alright, until that evening. Upon returning to the hotel I decided to try and remove the con- dom catheter. The glue was vicious and whichever way round I tried it simply wasnít going to come off, shrugging, I decided I had another day of diving to do so figured Iíd just live with it. The next day I got back into my suit and plumbed into the Pee valve again. I jumped into the water and headed off for the dive. Happily starting to urinate again, I was aware that something was wrong, the sense of heat was spread- ing instead of staying localised, as the heat turned to cold,

I realised that I had now filled my drysuit with piss. This was starting to become tiresome. After the dive it turned out that the pee valve tube had now become unattached from the catheter. I re-attached it using some gaffer tape and carried on with the day slightly wetter than before. I was also lucky enough to be able to ask for some condom removal advice from a p-valve veteran. This apparently was to drink lots of water, stand in the shower, hold the end of the tube and then go for it, the amount of urine then blows the condom off the old chap. This worked quite nicely and was only slightly agonising.

By this point I figured I had this pretty much sorted. How to get the condom catheter on, how to get it off, how to ensure it stays onto the Pee valve. Things were looking OK. We had one more day scheduled to practise some tec skills, so I reckoned I was in position to get everything right this time. I could not have been more wrong.

Everything was installed and OK and the dive began. Ap- proximately 30mins in I decided to use the pee valve. I be- gan to go but something was wrong, I was still having some problem relaxing enough to go so I took a moment and tried again. The sensation was a strange one of being able and unable to urinate all at the same time, there seemed to be a huge amount of pressure pushing back, I suddenly felt a wave of dizzying pain and stopped. I got my breath back and then decided further investigation was required before con- tinuing. At the surface I couldnít see a problem and the valve seemed to be working OK. I went to the toilet and

that was when I knew something was wrong, It didnít feel right to urinate at all, it almost seemed as if air was trapped. I gave up again and then we headed back to London.

The next day I was aware of a burning sensation as I went to the loo. I decided this must be stress from the weekend incident and decided to ignore it. Over the next couple of days it got no worse or no better and I began to get slightly concerned. Then on the Monday, I woke up and felt better. Thank God for that I thought and went back into work on Tuesday ready for clubnight. By the afternoon I was aware of a dull ache in the kidney region, this began to get progres- sively worse until I was in severe pain. I decided that I wasnít going to go to clubnight making it the first clubnight I have missed at DLL since taking the place over and not being on a trip. By the time I got home I was in trouble, I went to the doctor and they didnít even have any emergency appointments, I went home and lay on the sofa. Every time I went to the loo it was like someone was sticking a hot poker in my kidneys and the pain took my breath away. Meanwhile not only had one of the top bobs from PADI turned up to club- night the story was spreading around and in true Ďchinese whispersí style now involved me inserting the pee valve tube directly into my johnson and gaffer taping it in place.

The next day I got to the doctor who prescribed me a weekís course of antibiotics. They took the full week to kick the infection into touch and I was in discomfort the whole time. It appears that I got some kind of reflux of urine through the p-valve, possibly from a kink in the hose making it impossible for the urine to go anywhere other than backwards...

I havenít used the p-valve since but with some deep dives on their way Iíll be looking forward to hospitalising myself in the very near future.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this piece then the people at tanked up magazine have set up a special emergency line. Please call the offices and ask to speak to Oli quoting ĎI think Iíve wet myself and my willy hurtsí. If the man on the phone gets angry just hang up and call back again in 15 mins.

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