Being on the water is all about a healthy balance of relaxation and excitement. There’s no better way to achieve the latter than with a towable tube. Whether you’re looking at a towable for single or multiple riders, you’ll find plenty of fun once it is connected behind your boat.
Are you new to towable tubes? Not sure where to start? No worries! This complete guide to towable tubes will have you on the water and shouting to your boat driver for another tow in no time. Heads up though, you’re going to be the envy of the lake or river. After all, a good time is contagious.
What to Know About Boating Safety and Towable Tubes
When it comes to watersports, safety always comes first – towable tubes are no exception. Making safety a priority is a choice you’ll never regret. Everyone interested in tubing must abide by the proper safety protocols to avoid accidents and injury.
Boating Safety Tips
- The driver is the primary person responsible for safety, which means following all local lake rules and regulations in addition to not consuming alcohol or drugs when operating the boat.
- Always read the instructions/manual that comes with your towable tube.
- Wear a properly fitting life jacket.
- Make sure the tube is inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications.
- Understand state and local laws regarding tow boats and towable tubes.
- Only use a tow rope rated for the type of towable and number of riders being towed.
- Employ a spotter, in addition to the driver, inside the boat.
- Establish hand signals between everyone before getting in the water.
- Never exceed 20 miles per hour when towing an inflatable.
If you like options, there’s no shortage of them for towable tubes – ranging from the most basic donut/open-top style to unique concepts; there’s even a towable shaped like a Mexican sombrero. The choice you make will directly affect your experience out on the water because each style rides a bit differently. A ride-in style tube for example offers a more relaxed ride, ideal for younger or inexperienced riders. Frequent tubers may prefer a deck tube style that’s known for a very fast ride, requiring users to have a strong grip. Below is a list of the most common tube types and their intended use.
Donut/Open Top Tubes
When most people picture a towable, this is it. The donut or open tube is one of the most common styles of towable. It’s generally a small round tube where riders can sit in or lie flat on top. This style is the most versatile and appropriate for all age groups.
Overton’s Pick: Gladiator Deluxe 1-Person Towable Tube
If you’re an experienced rider and looking for the ultimate thrill, this is the tube style for you. Deck tubes are known for being very fast and require some grip strength. The rider lies flat on their stomach, facing the boat. Deck tubes can catch some air and may flip when hitting a large wave or wake, sending the riders flying.
Ride-On and Multi-Point Towables
The ride-on-top style offers a much more relaxed and laid-back ride. This towable is ideal for younger, first-time, or inexperienced riders. You sit on top of the tube in a seated position and enjoy a smoother take-off and an overall safer ride. Many ride-on style tubes also have multiple tow points which allows the tube to be pulled from the front or back, positioning riders chariot-style for more of a thrill. The dual function of this style makes it a family favorite.
If you don’t have a speed boat, don’t sweat it. Banana or toboggan-style tubes are just what you need as they are slimmer and more aerodynamic than other styles, so you don’t need as much speed to get going. The exciting ride is more suitable for younger or smaller children. This might also be a good choice for you if you have a large family, as they allow you to carry more riders than any other tube type.
The control of your towable isn’t always at the discretion of the boat’s driver. A rocker tube lets you take control of the towable as you shift your weight from one side to the other to steer. These towable tubes allow for all sorts of riding positions – standing, kneeling, sitting, or lying down. They can also be used by all ages and experience levels. Thrill seekers can rock side to side for added fun, or inexperienced riders can simply request a slower speed for less of a challenge.
Overton’s Pick: WOW Big Bazooka Towable Tube
Unique Concept Tubes
Quirky doesn’t even begin to cover it for these tube shapes and styles. Designed for everyone, this style of tube is typically more geared toward experienced riders who don’t get as much joy out of the standard donut/open top and deck tubes as they used to.
Overton’s Pick: O’Brien Sombrero 5-Person Towable Tube
How to Choose a Tow Rope
The choice of a tow rope should not be taken lightly. Although not nearly as much fun as choosing the tube, the tow rope selection is critical for both safety and overall enjoyment. Please note that tow ropes for tubes are very different than tow ropes for water skis, wakeboards, and kneeboards. Don’t assume there’s one rope that does it all or that you can reuse an existing rope for an alternative purpose. The length of a tube rope is standardized between 50′ and 65′ per the Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA).
Before the season begins, you should check your tow rope for damage. You should never use a knotted or frayed rope.
The most basic things to look for in a tow rope are the number of riders allowed and the max weight. If you’re unsure of which tow rope to choose, you can always refer to the tow rope section in the manual for your towable. Below are some great options for tow ropes; just make sure first and foremost that you choose one that matches or exceeds your number of riders.
How Do I Inflate My Towable Tube?
It’s hard to truly tell the size of a tube just by looking at photos online, but no matter which size or type you go with, you’re going to want an electric air pump to inflate it. It’s not possible to inflate these tubes without some sort of pump, and any mechanical pumps you consider would likely prove to be more of a workout than you’re looking for. This is why it’s important to select the correct electric air pump to go with your purchase of a towable tube and tow rope. These pumps are offered in both 12V DC and 110V AC so you can choose between using the boat’s battery out on the water (12VDC) or your wall outlet back in the garage (110VAC) before you head out. In addition to inflation, most of these pumps also deflate, helping you get packed up much sooner.
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