Jo Kemper is a rad 27 year old from Jackson, Wyoming. She currently resides in the paddling paradise of White Salmon, Washington. Fun fact, she was born on the north island of New Zealand. She loves kayaking, especially multi-day trips with her friends. We’re telling you this because she has been using prototype and production versions of the new, Immersion Research, Women’s Shawty Drysuit since Summer 2015. We asked her to give us the low down on using a front relief women’s drysuit. She gave us exactly what we were looking for, and more. After some careful editing, we are proud to present, Battle of the Butts.
I have grown to love this option for peeing…
Some of you may wonder how it came about that I’m rocking a drysuit with a front relief zipper, after spending years talking about my drop seat drysuit and how great it was. I hope this narrative of my transition from avid “drop seater” to shewee fanatic provides you with some insight to the differences that changed my mind on this issue.
In December 2010, just getting into my paddling addiction and poly-amorous love affair with kayaks, I learned about the existence of drysuits. My first drysuit was an early graduation gift; I got it just before I skipped my finals week junior year of college to launch on the Grand Canyon for 21 days. For this raft-supported playboating trip, my class three paddling skills, and significant beer consumption the drysuit with the drop seat blew my mind! It gave me the confidence that if I swam I wasn’t going to freeze, if I drank a lot of beer I could pee, and when I got giardia I could avoid a real mess in my brand new drysuit, for the most part.
June 2013 was the first time I scouted a big rapid only to realize I was about to poop myself and had to run off and make haste with the drop seat to avoid an over-nighter tragedy. If anyone had asked me that day, or any other day really, what I loved about my drysuit, I would have surely told them the drop seat is amazing! It is amazing, for pooping! I frequently told prospective drysuit shoppers and anyone who cared to listen, my two-cents on how much I loved my drop seat drysuit. I had never tried anything else.
As my paddling improves and my boat quiver blossoms, I am growing a whole new appreciation for a tighter, more intimate fit in the seat of my boat(s). I never really noticed the drop seat zipper to be in the way of anything as long as it was adjusted properly after sitting in my boat. That being said, when I first tried a drysuit with a front relief zipper in October of 2014 the first thing I noticed was how much less bulk there was between my body and my boat. I had to add shims to the hip pads. I also immediately noticed it was significantly lighter and less constricting for walking around in, and really nice for getting that up-close-and-personal feeling with my boat.
On the second or third day with the front relief zip I was on the river and realized, as I was about to wet myself, that I did not have a drop seat option, or a funnel of any sort. Up a creek without a funnel! I quickly found Nicole Mansfield, knowing she is a veteran “front reliefer”, and half requested, half demanded, that she hand over her shewee so I could avoid peeing in my new drysuit. A true friend will let you use her shewee. Since then, I picked up a small yellow funnel at the local hardware store for about $2 that my friends dubbed “the tickler”.
It has a little loop on it that if placed correctly might tickle, letting you know you’re in position so to speak. I have grown to love this option for peeing. It takes much less time and energy to relieve myself, and I don’t have to try to bend my arms backwards to try to re-tuck my base layers through the butt-flap when I’m done. It is significantly warmer to not expose my derrière, and it has essentially eliminated the awful occurrence of untucked base layers and the bare skin of my lower back making contact with the inside of my cold drysuit. It reduces the need for privacy when peeing in urban areas, and with a spray skirt on you almost wouldn’t even need to turn around for privacy. I can write my name in the snow, and pee on my friends!
In October of 2015 on a glorious Sunday in the Columbia River Gorge a group of passionate kayakers took to the water to protest Nestle’s plans for this area. During this seven plus hour adventure the fear of stopping to pee and being left behind to paddle hours of flatwater into a head wind alone spurred me to try something a little dicey with the tickler. In the middle of the Columbia River with at least a foot of wind swell and a few of my good friends holding my pink Perception Fox, I managed to balance kneeling in the cockpit of the boat and peeing out of the side, and I’d say I even got 90% of the pee out of the boat once I got past the stage fright. My friend, Jam, did accuse me of peeing on his hand, but he didn’t drop me in the Columbia with my relief zip open, for which I am immensely grateful. I didn’t drink anything the rest of the day to avoid a potential repeat, but I know it’s possible.
I still have that lingering thought, what if I need to poop? With the current giardia-like symptoms I may be experiencing, I drank raw water out of a tributary on my last over-nighter, the funnel might work for number 1 or number 2. Otherwise, like any dude on the river in a drysuit, if I need to poop I will undress, and if I need to poop real bad real fast, I’ll probably poop myself.
A few things to consider that may also impact your decision making. I live in the Columbia River Gorge, our runs generally take an hour or two on the water and are frequently less than an hour from home, therefore due to this ease, the frequency of needing to poop on the river is greatly reduced. My butt still puckers sometimes when I scout a stout and I have to disrobe and head for the woods.
Last year I paddled 277 days, most of which while wearing a drysuit. Simply because I live in it, I notice and experience inconveniences and conveniences of drysuits more than most would, and could be considered hyper critical. If you are concerned about peeing down your leg by accident, I have also fretted about this concern, but so far have successfully avoided mishaps of the sort. If you haven’t ever tried to pee standing up, you might want to practice in the shower. Proper shewee device selection comes in to play a lot. If the funnel spout diameter is too small, it may not drain as fast as you pee and back up into the bowl and overflow down your legs. Similarly, the spout can be too short or the bowl could be too small for your aim. I know not everyone is receptive to the idea, but try it before you buy it, if you can. “The tickler” is cheap and functional, and if you forget it for some reason, chances are you can pick one up at a truck stop on the way to your destination.
For those of you wondering how Jo feels about the Shawty in general she had this to say after a video shoot with Demshitz, Dave Fusilli.
“Sexy is not commonly a word I use to describe my drysuit, or myself wearing my drysuit, or how I feel when wearing my drysuit…. until said drysuit is a Shawty.The Shawty is long-limbed enough allow completely un-constricted movement, and the length in the legs can easily be controlled by the adjustable waist strap, or in my case, allowed to sag a little for some added gangster appeal. Even with my mongo torso, I can easily duck my head through the rear entry and zip it closed by myself. I find the rear and fly zippers combination to be the most comfortable and functional. I can pee without untucking all my base layers, and I can write my name in the snow! The material is lightweight, flexible and dry, unencumbering to the max. The color is going to make all of your friends purple with envy!” -Jo Kemper