Filed Under (Water Sports) by Debbie on 27-07-2007

There are few water sports toys that are easy to learn without some spills along the way.  However, towable tubes are a blast especially if you’re a kid!


Our daughter began riding a tube when she was about 18 months old, bright yellow tube, vest, wet suit and smooth part of the lake where no one else was.  We took her very slowly those first few years.  Actually we were only in forward gear that first year and we did lots of hoots and hollers for her.  Thus began the “adrenaline on the water junky” we’ve been raising.

Getting ready for fun


When we met another couple on the lake with a daughter about the same age as ours who was also interested in water sports, we found ourselves with two adrenaline junkies. While in the beginning they were happy to share a tube as the obsession grew they needed two tubes.


Riding a tube is challenging, as you have to shift your weight to counter balance the thrust of the tube over the water.  Then too, a steely grip on the handles helps.  The most difficult challenge however is to the boat’s driver.  They need to not only watch for on coming boats and the shore line but also watch to keep the rope tight and watch tube position.  It really doesn’t matter if you have a single tuber or several, the driver still has to watch for all these things.  The goal is to give a fun and thrilling ride with out any injuries.


We’ve all played that game as kids where you get a group together and hold hands.  Then the leader starts running and making turns and the kids on the end get whipped out and fall.  It’s the same thing with towable tubes and then the addition of boat wakes makes it even more difficult.  Our girls like to ‘bumper tube’ where you have two tubes and they ‘bump’ into each other.  Over the years we’ve discovered some important things to know.

The girls get moving


First, when you’re the boat driver, speed isn’t everything.  We’ve seen people out on the water screaming full out with tubers behind them.  We imagine these are the people who end up in the emergency rooms saying things like…”I never thought the water would hurt”….  When we (meaning my hubby) pull tubers we do what we call an elongated “S”.  We start them out slowly until everything’s on a plane and run at a moderate speed, 15-20 MPH.


Our girls ride two different ways depending on their moods.  They either lay on their stomachs, legs hanging off the back but not dragging in the water and then hold one hand on the center front handle and the other on the side handle.  Or they’ll sit backwards legs in the water holding onto the side handles.  Laying on their stomachs equal fun, fast, bumps and air.  Sitting backwards equals heading somewhere and going pretty much straight over not too rough of water.

Crossing the wake at the end of the day




If they are on their stomachs they will use their body weight to counter balance the tube as they move across the wakes.  So, swing right, they will be to the left of the center of the tube, right hand at the center handle, and left hand at the side handle.  Then reverse as they swing the opposite direction.  They’ve become so proficient at it that it’s almost like watching some kind of synchronized water dance.


Once we’re going straight and the kids are ready we start making our turns.  We turn smoothly in one direction until the tubes are swinging out, then we straighten back up until they finish the swing out.  Sometimes we have to slow down, also keep your eyes on the rope as sometimes slack will occur.


Wait until the tubes swing towards the wake again.  Once they start to swing back towards the wake we turn the opposite way from the first turn until they cross over the far wake and then we straighten up again.  This maneuver is repeated over and over and over until the flagger (meaning me) is sick to death of watching them fly back and forth.

Bumper tubing gets started


This is the point where the driver gets to be just a bit ornery.  We make a circle with the boat, maybe two or three times around at a reduced speed, keeping the tubes to the outside swing, so we make nice big boat wakes.  Once we have the water pretty churned up, we drive slowly straight away…towing the tubes over our man made tsunami.  This is the grand finale at which point the girls complain they weren’t done.


A couple of things we’ve discovered about ‘bumper tubing’ is that it’s important both tubes be the same ‘make and model’.  Otherwise you can end up with one tube that has more/less friction on the water surface than the other.  Also, if one tube is round in shape and the other is triangular there are increased problems with tipping one over and dumping out the rider.  The other important thing to do and I’m surprised at how many boats I see not doing this, is to have both ski/tow ropes the same.  Well, at least the same length.

Bumper tubing gets good

Another item is to have the tow/ski rope as high up on the boat as possible.  If you are connecting to the back of the boat it will drag through the water; which sends tons of spray into the faces of the tubers.  It also increases drag and makes it more difficult for the boat driver to control the direction the tubes take.


If you’re new to this water sport, just take it slowly.  Towable tubes are a blast for kids and adults.  If you’re going to ride a long time then I’d suggest long board shorts and a rash guard shirt with long sleeves to keep from having your skin rubbed raw by the tube’s cover seams and also ski gloves.  Find yourself with a leak and need to fix it?  Click here.

Our little adrenaline junky

Have fun and stay safe, this is a great activity for kids.


Thanks for visiting and feel free to leave comments on your tubing experiences or any questions you may have.


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