Martin Chambers

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Life is an adventure. Learn to pee in your kayak.

published: May 24th, 2016

Do you find it is always the same types of people around you in the activities you do? In work and play it is in the subtle messages we send that dictate who comes along. For example, if your workplace struggles to find women to fill traditionally male roles perhaps the answer is as simple as knowing how to pee in your kayak.

Admittedly, for most the actual peeing in a kayak skill is something that will not arise but it is worth thinking about if only because, beyond the sea kayak fraternity, equality can only ever be understood if we also understand that we are not all the same.

How to pee when crossing Cook Straight: 

Equal but not the same can apply to many things – race, religion, gender, favorite boy band. For now we will consider the particular anatomy of peeing in a kayak while far out to sea. And the first thing to know is that it is men who must adapt first.

From the feature doc “Paddle to Seattle” 

Recently some friends were organizing an expedition to paddle the Cape to Cape (Cape Leeuwin to Cape Naturalist).  It was only after plans were nearly finalized, food, gear, stoves, car shuffles, that Connie asked, ‘How do we pee if there is no chance of landing?’ Connie was the only girl on the trip and the fact she had to ask this question is somewhat embarrassing. No wonder just about every trip I do has only men on it. We should think about these things before someone has to ask, and to be able to answer it without embarrassment.

A place you might need to pee. Cape to cape 2016

It is perhaps obvious that peeing in a kayak presents a greater degree of difficulty for women. But for men, jokes of how cold (or deep) the water is aside, there is also some planning required. A container obviously. You will need access, meaning perhaps a zipper on the spraydeck and whatever costume you are wearing. Wet suits do not have a fly so are probably not a good idea for long trips. Dry suits without a fly may not remain dry. While kayaking at Spitzbergen we had hired dry suits without a zipper that took about five minutes to exit. Let’s summarise that trip by saying you don’t want to be in a hurry.

Water is cold. And deep too. South Georgia Island circumnavigators

Andrew Maffet told me that on their South Georgia Island circumnavigation the Australian team had dry suits with fly zippers. Great for peeing but not the other. Andrew did tell me of an accident and how, after landing to wash, they had to name one unmarked inlet ‘Brownwater Bay’. I won’t go there, but maybe you can try here.  

How to pee like a man: Shewee

Girls can do it standing up: Shewee

For women, there are ‘pee like a man’ devices. I asked some women sea kayakers for their assessment of these. Sandy Robson is nearing the end of her seven year expedition retracing Oskar Speck’s paddle from Germany to Australia. She has used the shewee an estimated 5000 times so she is therefore the world expert of peeing in a kayak. She is interviewed about her trip, and using the Sheewee, by Grant Rawlinson, here

Sandy Robson, world champion

You might also like to check Freya Hoffmiester and Tara Mulvaney to know the expeditions of second and third place in the womens’ pee from a kayak championships. Tara prefers to pee over the side of her kayak. For balance, she must come alongside another kayak to half stand from the cockpit. If it is calm, she pees in the ocean. If not, over the deck.

Freya Hoffmiester

  Tara Mulvany

Justine Curvengen, whose company Cackle TV produces the ‘This is the sea’ kayak DVD’s and adventure films, tells me she, like Tara, requires another kayak to raft to while she goes. It is quite likely Justine is paddling somewhat more extreme conditions than I do, in fact she told me her most exciting pee was at 4knots in a force five gale while sailing and holding onto her friend.  Which leads to the next point.

Justine Curvengen, looking for an exciting place to pee

At sea when planning a long crossing or traversing a long difficult shoreline, you should also plan for conditions not being perfect. Relaxed stability when unzipped is a consideration. Paddle floats or sponsons might help, or like Tara and Justine , you might need to raft up to a friend. The important point is that successful peeing requires relaxation. If they are not a good friend you will need to be able to relax whilst peeing onto the deck of a stranger’s kayak.

Another consideration is that if circumstances are difficult, some people, both men and women, might be tempted to not drink hoping therefore the issue does not arise. Dehydration is far more serious concern particularly on long trips. In cold places it is the equal risk as in warm places, as the cold means we do not get thirsty and the layers of clothing mean we are even more likely to seek to shun the pleasure of a good long pee. 

A useful site for Women is at Girls Outdoors, There are also online discussions in forums such as below, but please don’t try not drinking as an option.

My point is not to say that it is either easy or difficult to pee while out on a long kayak trip, but that I can think of very few things that are not improved by having a diversity of people along. Sea kayaking is one of these, and it is your attitude that matters when it comes to attracting others to join you. Guys, and girls, there will probably be people on your adventures who require things that you do not. They might also do things differently. If you are lucky, they will, like Connie, be bold enough to ask, but more likely they will simply not come along and you will be left wondering why everyone on your adventure looks the same.

Adventure, which long distance sea kayak trips are, requires ultimately that we are comfortable with our bodies and how they work. It requires planning, which includes selecting the correct equipment and predicting what others might need, but more importantly, successful adventuring requires attitude.

Tolerance and understanding of the circumstances and difficulties of others will not only make you a better adventurer, it is also a good thing to carry into all walks of life.

Because life is an adventure. Learn to pee in a kayak.

first published in Medium, May 2016