Surfing for many is a private dance. There are other people around you at any given time, sure. But catching a wave by yourself is about an intimate relationship with the ocean. As intimate, say, as going to the bathroom. Two things, as it turns out, that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Because, according to a new study published in the Journal of Urine Research, if you surf and you have a beating heart, you pee in your wetsuit.
Dr. Elizabeth Talberg is the director of the Urinology Department at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, and has been conducting this cutting-edge research for over five years.
“Until our clinical studies, we had to rely on asking respondents if they urinate in their wetsuits when they go in the ocean, and taking those responses at face value,” says Dr. Talberg. “In those trials, about 70 percent of respondents confirmed they urinate in their wetsuit. But we were suspicious of the results. Something didn’t feel right.”
Talberg decided not to publish the results of that study, and went back to the drawing board to design a new methodology.
“We created a wetsuit capable of detecting when it entered the water and if and when users urinated in it. We then distributed 100 wetsuits to a sample group. 50 surfers with beating hearts and 50 without. After a month, the results were radically different than our initial study.”
Of the surfers in the sample, every single one with a beating heart urinated in their wetsuit, all fifty that weren’t living did not pee in their suit.
“When we saw that, we knew we were onto something,” says Dr. Talberg.
These initial findings allowed Dr. Talberg to approach the Washington Center for Urine Wetsuit Studies and ask for grant funding to expand her research to other regions of the United States. The first sample group was made up exclusively of surfers from Southern California, and Talberg was curious if geography had any impact on surfers peeing in their wetsuits.
“We made about 1,000 more wetsuits and distributed them to surfers across the country. What we found was the results were identical. 100 percent of living participants peed in their suits. 100 percent of non-living participants did not.”
I asked Dr. Talberg to speculate about the inconsistencies between her first study simply asking surfers, and her more recent studies using these specially designed wetsuits.
“Well for one, surfers without beating hearts were unresponsive, so that skewed the statistics a bit,” she said. “But more importantly it proves without a shadow of a doubt that all surfers urinate in their wetsuits. And if someone tells you they don’t they’re lying about it.”