Ivan jumps in the luscious green water of Vaitahu Bay for a dip:

Vaitahu, Tahuata in the Marquesas Island Group, French Polynesia.

After a short swim, he begins to lift himself up onto the concrete wall of the wharf to get out, but something stops him short. He drops backwards into the water and begins swimming off in an awkward stroke that is a cross between a dog paddle and a drowning man.

“Where are you going?” I yell out to him.

He doesn’t respond. Something is wrong. He keeps paddling in the direction of the rocky shoreline, with his head only just above the water’s surface.

I take off running to the rocks where he’s headed.

He scrambles out of the water, looking pale and noticeably shaken. He buckles to the ground, trembling and grasping at his feet.

“What happened?” I ask, confused.

He rocks back and forth with his arms wrapped around his knees.

“You’re hurt?”

He nods.

“What hurt you?”

“Don’t know,” he replies through clenched teeth. “But it’s hurting everywhere.” He holds out his feet, revealing a bunch of purple welts. His swollen toes look like cooked sausages. “Here too,” he says, lifting his foot to show splinters deeply embedded in the underside. “And here.” He points to his elbows, then both knees. He’s covered in angry welts.

A small crowd gathers, including two local men who take one look at his condition and recognize the cause. “Sea urchins,” one of them says.

This makes Ivan rock back and forth even more vigorously.

I remember seeing them when I stepped out of the dinghy. There was a massive colony of them clinging to the wall: ink-black bouquets of spiny needles. My skin aches with sympathetic pain.

The urchins’ spines inflict a very painful wound, but they’re not dangerous.

“What should we do?” I ask the local men.

One of the men steps forward to inspect. “Ah, you need … you need to… ah …” he hesitates to find the words in English. “You need to make pee-pee on stings.”

I blush and let out an uncomfortable giggle. I’m staring at the men – part nervous, part waiting for one of them to say, “Just kidding!”

The three men look directly at me. Me? Oh my god, of course me!

Oui, yes,” the second man agrees. “Make pee-pee and voilà, the stings vanish.”

The crowd of spectators all look to me — the significant other — waiting for something to happen. I contemplate the situation: do I squat and pee on Ivan in front of a group of people? Would I even have enough to cover his knees, feet, elbows and hands? I only just went! But I have to try — I can’t just let him lay there suffering.

I move in …

Stung on the foot, knees and elbows — ouch!

Ivan snaps out of his stupor of pain, springs up off the ground and begins to walk off. “Forget it. I’m totally fine,” he says.

Everyone looks confused. He was lying on the ground, pasty and traumatized, now he’s walking away with a skip in his step?

“Ah, you sure you’re alright there, buddy?” someone in the crowd asks.

“Yep. Totally good,” Ivan says, in a pinched voice. He limps off down the dirt road towards town, forcing me to run to catch up.

“What happened?” I ask. “You’re better now? Why did you – ”

“I wasn’t gonna whip out my schlong and pee all over myself with a group of people watching!” He picks up his pace and hobbles away.


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23 Response Comments

  • Matthew Karsten  June 29, 2011 at 2:10 pm

    Ouch! I’ve heard that peeing on the wounds helps too. Luckily I’ve never had to experience it yet…

    Did get stung by a jellyfish in the chest once, went to lay down and had trouble breathing for about 30 minutes.

    • Torre DeRoche  June 29, 2011 at 9:43 pm

      Hmm, that would’ve been an interesting one to pee on … (works for jellyfish too).

  • Meg  June 29, 2011 at 4:01 pm

    Yikes!!! That sounds awful. My dad always told me if I were to ever get stung by anything to have someone pee on me too. It’s no joke. I was walking the other day and got stung by a bee on my foot, I asked my boyfriend to me on it but he was not having it. 🙂 I guess it has to be a scarier creature to get peed on. You are a brave soul for making the decision to pull your pants down! 🙂

  • Leif  June 29, 2011 at 6:47 pm

    Hahahaha, I love it. “I wasn’t going to whip out my shlong and pee all over myself.” That was so funny. Would you have actually peed on him? What island was this on?

    • Torre DeRoche  June 29, 2011 at 9:49 pm

      Vaitahu, Tahuata in the Marquesas Island Group, French Polynesia. I think I’d have taken him somewhere private first (too many people watching!). Funny thing was, after that incident, I watched Survivor Marquesas and one of the women on that series pees on a guy’s hand when he gets stung by a sea urchin. On public TV! Brave soul.

  • Erica  June 29, 2011 at 7:15 pm

    Isn’t is also supposed to help out with jellyfish? There are so many in the Gulf of Mexico that it is a well known thing to try out. My step mom used to carry around a jar of meat tenderizer – it is supposed to do the same thing. 😛

    • Torre DeRoche  June 29, 2011 at 9:53 pm

      Ammonia is the best solution.

      Just read on Wiki: “Urban myth states that urine works well against jellyfish stings … At best, it is ineffective and in some cases this treatment may make the injury worse.”

      Weird. Every single islander said pee was the answer. Maybe it’s an in-joke?

  • Toni  June 29, 2011 at 8:35 pm

    I laugh because I know what you went he went through the poor guy. I only brushed passed the thing and it stung like crazy….only for me I was on a boat for a week with 11 men and no other women. Unsurprisingly, they offered to pee on me (but they hadn’t even taken me for a dinner date so that was a no) but I stuck the smile on my face and downed the alcohol instead haha

    • Torre DeRoche  June 29, 2011 at 9:54 pm

      Funny, Toni. See my comment above — good thing you didn’t take them up on the offer.

  • Sarah  June 30, 2011 at 6:59 am

    I got stung by a sea urchin in the Phillipines and shortly after (as in like, seconds) got hit on by a jellyfish.

    Needless to say, I felt totally taken advantage of.

    • Torre DeRoche  July 3, 2011 at 9:16 am

      That sounds like something that would happen to Ivan. Hilarious.

  • Rease  June 30, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    So in the end, he didn´t pee on himself? How did he treat it?

    • Torre DeRoche  July 3, 2011 at 9:23 am

      Nope. He just lived with the splinters for 2 weeks. He finally went to the doctor after walking around in pain for 2 weeks and the doc said “If you’d peed on it, they would’ve dissolved immediately.” They eventually went away sans pee.

  • Faith  June 30, 2011 at 11:11 pm

    Hahaha! Oh god, how awful. I’m still laughing at the end of the story. I think I would have done exactly what Ivan did. Poor guy!

    • Torre DeRoche  July 3, 2011 at 9:24 am

      Yes, me too. I’ll take pain over humiliation any day!

  • Scott - Quirky Travel Guy  July 2, 2011 at 9:11 pm

    Great story. I’m a little dense, though… he was hobbling away to go somewhere and pee on himself in private, then? Is that how the story ends?

    • Torre DeRoche  July 3, 2011 at 9:26 am

      I think I’m the dense one, Scott 🙂 He hobbled away to avoid the crowd gathered around him, and no he didn’t pee on himself! Good thing too, since it’s apparently an urban myth. Hmm.

  • Lorna - the roamantics  July 3, 2011 at 9:04 am

    oooh torre- your book is going to be goooood 🙂 my friend’s mom thought the reason she never had acne growing up is because her mom used to wipe her pee-filled diapers on her face! you have to wonder if a couple of old friends somewhere aren’t laughing their asses off at what they’ve started 😉

    • Torre DeRoche  July 3, 2011 at 9:28 am

      Okay backup, girlfriend. WTF? Pee-filled diapers wiped on a baby’s face?? Oh my … that is sad.

  • Raymond  July 4, 2011 at 5:13 am

    I’ve stepped on sea urchins twice. Not fun at all. The first time, a woman from Quebec offered me some cream. She said, “it’s cream for woman, you know, when she has itch down there.” I politely declined. 🙂

  • marian kelly  February 11, 2012 at 1:36 pm

    I just had to reply to your comments and hope this helps someone in the future. I was stung by a sea urchin while snorkling in the sea in St Vincent in the Caribbean on the last day of our cruise before heading back to barbados. I saw a group of sea urchins they looked similar to an hedgehog very spiky then I moved over to a rock to adjust my goggles and accidently stood on one. I signalled to my husband what had happened and quickly got out of the sea. As I was coming to terms with what had happened a young man came running towards me and explained in detail what i needed to do and stated under no circumstances should i try to remove the SPINES as they could become infected and yes he recommended ammonia (pee) and that i should pee on my foot and then the pain would go and also the spines would desolve.

    I then went to my towel and was approach by a first aider who used a method of dousing my foot in alcohol and setting fire to it. I allowed him to do this however it was more painful than the spines so when he offered to repeat it I quickly declined. I continued with the ammonia and it took 5 days to clear up.

  • Randy  August 13, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    I cam across plenty of these but their meat is very tasty but if u step on them they burn like mad. As a diver i had then all over my body.

    The best way to get them out of your feet is to put some hot candle grease on them or if they are in your feet you can walk on the hot road and they will come out

    Never try to pluck then out or pick them with needle or else they will drill further in your feet but they do hurt

    I grew up around then so i know the score


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