Do Surfers Poop in the Ocean? Myths & Facts (+5 Tips)

Robert Elgar

Imagine paddling out on a day where the conditions are perfect.

There’s a slight offshore breeze, the swell is rolling in, and there are only a few other surfers in the lineup.

A perfect day until you finally make it past the break and realize you need to poop.

Here you have two options. Paddle all the way back to shore, or simply slip down your wetsuit and immerse yourself in nature.

Yes, it may seem disgusting, but people (including surfers) poop in the ocean all the time.

This is not to say that it is a good or polite thing to do, but it does happen more than you would think.

Now before you begin freaking out, you should keep in mind that even if surfers were not pooping in the ocean, the coastline is already full of fecal matter from sewage runoff.

Ultimately, our nature-immersing extreme water sport is also a bit of a paddle in some turd.

How Many Surfers Poop in the Ocean?

It is virtually impossible to find out how many surfers poop in the ocean, and how often they do so, without walking down the beach and asking every person that comes out of the water.

Now I don’t know about you, but that is not the way I plan on spending my free time.

Besides, how many truthful answers you would get – if any at all – is more than questionable.

That being said, I have never come across a solo surfer on the edge of the lineup giving one last push in hopes of avoiding the long paddle back to shore.

But I have been told by numerous surfers that at some stage, they have pooped in the ocean.

I think it is safe to assume that not that many surfers use the ocean as their toilet, but with 35 million surfers in the world, just a small percentage are still quite a few.

Is It Illegal to Defecate in the Ocean?

Where you live always determines the legality of an action.

For example, in Singapore, littering will result in a $500 fine, and potential jail time, while in India you would be lucky to see the ground through all the trash in some places.

Because of these different restrictions, whether defecating in the ocean is a crime is not a clear-cut answer.

That being said, making it illegal to poop in the ocean would be a controversial thing to do, as all the sewage from boats is directly deposited into the ocean, as well as treated (and sometimes untreated) sewage water from cities and towns along coastlines.

Having said that, even if it is not illegal to poop in the ocean, some countries, such as the USA, have strict laws about indecent exposure, public nudity, and defecating in public.

This means that even if defecating in the ocean is not illegal, doing so would still be breaking other laws.

What Happens if Humans Poop in the Ocean?

If you poop in the ocean, the truth is that nothing major will happen (providing you follow a few key points). 

In short, your poop will slowly wash out to sea (or back to shore), begin to decompose, and eventually be eaten by something.

This is not a problem, and in small amounts will cause no harm, which is why taking an aqua poo (yes, there’s a name for it) is not a huge deal.

The problem comes in when the amount of human feces that enters the ocean reaches large quantities as with coastal cities or the huge network of global ships.

Are Human Feces Bad for the Ocean?

As mentioned above, human feces, in small quantities, is not a problem for the ocean as it will quickly be broken down by sea life and bacteria in the ocean.

The problem occurs when large amounts of human feces enter the ocean at the same time from the same point and therefore increase the concentration locally.

According to Dr. Steven Katona, the managing director of Ocean Health Index, untreated or primary-treated sewage can harm biological communities because of the oxygen depletion by the bacteria decomposing all the organic waste.

Furthermore, pathogens contained in human feces can contaminate commercial fish, shellfish, and other marine life.

As mentioned before, this is usually due to the overload from city sewage systems, and will not be the result of a sneaky ocean poo.

Are Feces in the Ocean a Problem for Surfers?

Human feces are dirty and full of pathogens. It is never a good idea to spend a lot of time around human excrement, but in the ocean, this is often unavoidable.

Human waste enters the ocean in large quantities from sewage runoffs around cities. This floods coastlines with feces and other potentially harmful substances.

The bacteria that are introduced to the ocean can cause skin irritation, stomach problems, and bacterial infections such as pink eye.

Furthermore, coastlines around cities have often been found to contain flesh-eating bacteria that can become life-threatening when entering through open wounds such as tattoos or piercings.

This is why it is important to always rinse with fresh water after surfing.

Is It Dangerous to Poop in the Ocean?

Pooping in the ocean is not necessarily dangerous, although it could become dangerous in certain scenarios.

Take the following situation for example:

You paddle out to your favorite reef. You navigate the rocks, avoid the break, and finally make it to the backline only to realize that you need the toilet.

You are the only person in the water so you pull your wetsuit down to your waist, slide yourself off your board, and – just as you are giving a last push – look up only to realize the set has come and you are stuck in the impact zone.

What a few strategic duck dives would usually solve is now a recipe to fill your wetsuit with water, wrap your leash around your neck, and send you crashing into the reef.

In essence, pooping in the ocean is not a dangerous activity, but done in an unsafe way, it could be the last poop you ever take.

What to Do if You “Have to Go” While Surfing? (5 Tips)

Now that you know about the consequences of pooping in the ocean, the question is,:

What should you do if you find yourself in a situation out in the backline and really needing to go?

In short, you have three options, and three options only:

  1. Hold it (if possible)
  2. paddle back to shore and find a toilet (or dig a hole)
  3. paddle away from the lineup and relieve yourself.

The first two choices are self-explanatory, as most of us have made both of these choices at some stage.

But if it is the aqua poo option you are going for, then there are some things you should keep in mind.

1. Don’t Poop in the Lineup

One of the last things you want to experience while surfing is to catch the lip of a wave to the head, only to find out it came with a nice chunk of poo.

Taking an aqua poop in the middle of the lineup is disrespectful to other surfers as no one wants to be swimming around your turd.

After all, what’s more disgusting than someone taking a dump right next to you?

If you need to go, then do make sure to paddle far away from the break. And then a little further.

2. Don’t Poop on an Incoming Tide

Before you take your ocean dump you should consider where your poo will end up.

Pooping in the ocean on an incoming tide is going to result in your turd slowly making its way to shore and nestling itself on the beach.

Once again, this is disrespectful to others that use the beach (as well as unsanitary).

You should also consider the swell, wind, and current direction.

It may be one thing to paddle away from the lineup, but if the currents are floating straight back to where you came from, then guess what the current is taking with it?

3. Watch the Waves

Always keep an eye on the horizon before pulling down your wetsuit.

Being caught in the middle of a set with your wetsuit around your ankles is a dangerous situation to find yourself in.

It is best to paddle away from the main break, and if possible, paddle past the last breaking waves.

This will reduce the chance of a wave hitting you in the face and dragging you under while you do your business.

4. Watch the Water Clarity

Remember, if you can see something floating down by your feet while in the ocean, then others can see it too.

Before pulling off your pants, take a quick check at how clean the water is.

If you can see the sand as clear as on land, then you may want to consider the paddle back to shore instead. Or at least paddle far enough away from the nearest surfer.

5. Clean Yourself

Although it may seem on the gross side, you are going to need to clean up when you are done.

Unless you want to find a brown skid mark on the inside of your boardshorts or wetsuit when you get home, then you are going to need to get down and dirty and use your hand.

The truth is that no amount of sloshing and splashing will get you as clean as you need to be.

Is It Ok for Surfers to Poop in the Ocean?

Each surfer will have a different opinion of whether it is okay for surfers to poop in the ocean or not.

What we do know, however, is that taking an aqua poo will not have a negative effect on the ocean.

The main thing you need to consider is the details of how, when and where you do your business as well as how the other surfers may be affected by it (ideally, not at all !).

That being said, if you paddle away from the crowd and make sure the currents are traveling away from the lineup, then you should be fine.

The “okayness” of pooping in the ocean will usually come down to how professionally you handle the situation, not because of its environmental effects.

Conclusion

Although it may seem wrong, you might be surprised to find out the amount of human poop that ends up in the ocean.

With the poorly operated sewage systems of cities to the thousands of ships, boats, yachts, and rigs around the oceans, we can be sure that the ocean is a dump.

In between these large sources of feces, there’s also the odd swimmer and surfer who choose to relieve themselves in the ocean instead of heading back to dry land.

Some find this acceptable, while others find it vile and disrespectful. 

In the end, the decision to take an aqua dump is yours and yours alone.

However, it is strongly recommended to consider those around you first.

Help someone by sharing this article:

Sharing is caring 🙂 !

You Might Also Like…

Why Don’t You Join the Inner Circle?

If you liked this article, then you don’t want to miss out on upcoming new posts.

Join our free newsletter today and be the first to read our latest helpful and practical content about your favorite water sports – created for you by our passionate experts!