One of the most exciting things you’ll see along the shores right now on a day nice day is tubers being towed around by by boats and personal watercraft (PWC), sliding sideways across the water or jumping wake with screaming riders while the driver pulls them up and down the river, lake or beach.
It probably makes you want to join the fun.
What are the different types of PWC towables? The different types of PWC towables range from the simple single-seater donut to massive multi-seater loungers. The wide range of available inflatable tubes are equipped with modern safety features and are made from robust materials, ensuring there’s a floatable for every occasion.
Should You Use a PWC for Tubing?
Whether you know it best as Jet Ski, Sea-Doo, or WaveRunner, a personal watercraft is one of the more versatile water-based vehicles.
How do they fare at towing a tube though? There are a couple of points to take note of on either side of the coin.
Advantages to Using a PWC
On the side of benefits, there are several practical advantages to using a PWC over any other craft. This is especially the case when towing inflatable tubes (source).
Size and Ease of Use
Time is a precious commodity. Sometimes there’ll be the chance to go out and tube for hours on end.
Other times, though, it would be nice to pop out for a brief half an hour break on the water.
Either way, a PWC makes launching your towables a quick and easy task so the focus is on the tubing. Their small size also makes it easier to tie to a dock. Larger boats take longer to launch and return to dock or trailer.
Thanks to the shallower draft (depth of the underwater portion), personal watercraft are less likely to get stuck out in shallower water. Just be careful in shallow areas to not suck up debris, as I discuss in that post.
The last thing you want is to get caught in seaweed while trying to launch your tube. Or hit shallow underwater debris and damage your boat hull or prop. PWC’s can be an advantage in those areas.
Ensure you don’t tow at speed when launching in shallow water. It is much safer to tow in deeper water than risk shallow waters and impact with the river or lake bed. But you can slowly launch larger tubes from near shore, since they can’t really be stuffed into your watercraft’s storage bin.
Powerful Multi-Seating Watercrafts
PWCs these days come in all sorts of varieties, and when it comes to tubing the primary rule is this: if your craft has more than one seat, you’re good to go.
There are of course some regulations around the operation and use of these craft for towing which will vary depending on your area. Be sure to check these rules before you hit the water.
These are in place for a reason after all.
Most PWCs these days are multi-seating and hold enough space for a spotter, someone that sits behind the driver and facilitates communication.
This is a fundamental requirement for towing in most places. On top of this they have powerful engines more than capable of pulling most towables, especially inflatable tubes.
Less Impact on Your Surroundings
From sound pollution to environmental impact, the smaller nature of a modern PWC also makes it less of a risk on the areas around you.
Everyone wants to have fun in the water and what better way than with a lessened effect on the natural wildlife nearby.
It will also enable users more freedom when going out onto the water without having to worry about these factors.
In the early days of personal watercraft this was not quite the case but since then the modern models have made remarkable improvements.
Now that these strict guidelines are in place, the standards are of a much more commendable level (source).
Disadvantages of a PWC
As much as there are the benefits to using a PWC for towing, there are also some restrictions and requirements to be on the lookout for. A few states don’t permit towing with a a PWC. Others may have certain bodies of water with speed limits.
Licensing and spotter or mirror rules also vary regionally. The important thing to remember is that the regulations vary from region to region so make sure you are aware of those specific requirements too (source).
You can read more about towing with a jet ski or personals watercraft in our article on general towing principles.
Restrictions on Number of Users
Probably the biggest downside to using a PWC to tow is that they require at least three people in most areas.
This includes a driver, spotter, and the person being towed.
On top of this, there are sometimes requirements on the number of persons you can tow, based on the spare seats available should they fall off.
This can limit the potential of the towing experience, especially with the larger tubes that seat up to 4 people. Having a support boat or launching from shore can help in that situation.
Again, please check the specific guidelines for PWCs in your area.
Features to Look for in a Towable Tube
Now onto the fun part: the different types of tubes. With so many on the market, it’s good to get a sense of what unique features these can offer you. From the number of seats to the added extras available, a lot goes into the modern floatables.
Size and Shape of the Tube
Originally the towable tube was the basic donut ring you likely know well.
As popularity grew for the sport, so did the range of different tube shapes.
Initially, the new shapes were introduced to accompany additional riders, and then it was to provide a unique experience on the water (source).
When looking at the tubes, consider the most likely scenario you want it for, the number of people involved, and the general age group.
There are some fancy floatables available and each caters for a specific use.
The reality is that tubing behind a personal watercraft can be a dangerous sport and as such, most modern-day towables have been outfitted with strong, reliable materials, and additional safety precautions.
This includes PVC tubing, nylon covers, and reinforced tow harnesses, all designed to keep riders and drivers as safe as possible (source).
The list of tubes we’ve gathered here has been selected with safety as one of the primary focus points.
However, there is still risk involved with a sport like this so please read our safety tips at the end. Ultimately, all responsibility lies with the driver of the watercraft, so start slowly until you gain experience.
These are the parts of the towable that set it notably apart from the rest of the pack.
Whether it’s the guarded hand grips, the additional comfort or even just the style of the tube, there are some features that are going to swing the vote and make the difference.
Our Top Towable PWC Tubes
Finally, let’s look at some actual towables. These are some of the best tubes on the market, each unique in what they provide the rider.
The aim of these reviews is to give you a general idea of the experience you can expect from the different styles of tube.
All of the images open a new Amazon purchase page. Just click to see latest prices and you’ll still be here. The images don’t display in some browsers or devices. If that happens, click the title to go to the Amazon page to see the tube and latest price. Without further ado, let’s hop into the action!
I’m going to start with the most unusual tube we’ve ever owned. This is a single rider enclosed tube for experienced riders. Advantages of this tube include small size when deflated, lower price than some of the others and the quick connect/release rope harness.
The rider climbs into the tube, where there is an inside handle. Once ready, the tube can be then pulled in a straight line while the rider shifts weight to roll over.
But an experienced driver can flip this into a continuous spin by taking an abrupt turn and maintaining a circle pattern. Only experienced riders and drivers should attempt this maneuver, but my kids have said it’s like no other tube ride they’ve experienced.
They’ve nicknamed it the vomit comet due to the number of times we’ve pulled this maneuver. Click the image to see the latest Amazon price and availability.
There are a few downsides. First, the rider can’t communicate with the driver very well. So if you are going too fast or too slow, you may not realize it. Falling out of the tube may be the only way for the rider to get your attention.
Secondly, the materials are a little thinner than the other tubes on the list. Be prepared to patch it a few times. And if the seams burst, it can’t be repaired.
That has not yet happened to us, however, and it has lasted 4 seasons with multiple patch repairs. Overall, a great tube for experienced riders.
The Sportsstuff Big Mable is up next and for good reason. After checking through the wide range of options available, this remarkable towable should be a prime candidate. It is the number 1 purchased towable on Amazon.
As one of the most developed tubes on the market, this is what a modern-day large tube entails.
The Big Mable seats 1-3 riders, with a lounger type setup providing an accommodating experience.
This allows for the luxury of a more relaxed towing experience; with additional padding on the seats, a comfortable backrest, and air-cushioned sides.
A big advantage of this tube is that it has two different tow points. This means you can change up the experience from lounger to a more chariot styled one.
Along with this, there are handholds all over, with knuckle guards for extra protection. This makes the Big Mable a flexible towable able to entertain throughout the season.
Click on the image below to find the right size and priced Big Mable for you on Amazon.
A heavy-duty nylon cover adds protection to the tube while a speed safety valve allows easy and quick inflating and deflating (source).
There is a Kwik Connect system in place that allows it to attach with ease and get you on the water fast.
To round it out, the bright red color scheme and checkered siding give it a racing finish that adds a fun flair.
There is also a 4-seater version of this tube available.
However, due to possible restrictions on towing and the overall weight of the towable, the 1-3 rider version is more practical for personal watercraft.
So, this is not really one tube but rather a collection of similar ones with different seating options.
As the name suggests, the different numbers of the Airhead Mach represent the available seats.
Whichever seating requirement you have can be found on this type of tube.
It’s the shape of the tube that gives this such a high rating. The Airhead features a simple, aerodynamic ring shape, with headrests and a comfortable seating pocket or cockpit.
This provides the classic tubing feel whilst incorporating the modern enhancements that the sport has seen.
On top of this, it allows for a more secure seating option for the smaller riders. The image below directs you to the options available on Amazon.
Including a partial nylon cover and speed safety valve this tube also has the features that make it a reliable and practical choice.
As mentioned, it is especially effective for younger users as its simple design and cockpit seat allow them to learn the ropes without any complicated features and risks.
Like most of these top tubes, the materials used in its creation are robust and reliable. It’s a sound investment for the long-term season.
Here’s something a little different. As the name suggests, the Airhead Hot Dog is an extended, sausage-shaped tube.
It is available in a variety of sizes, seating up to 5 riders, one behind the other. We have owned the 3, 5 and 6 rider (the Big Dog 6) versions of this tube. It’s a great choice for anyone wanting to earn a little extra money with their ski.
For the personal watercraft towing experience, the smaller versions will be better suited and still offer the same innovative adventure.
Padded seating and handles allow for a comfortable ride while the look of an actual hotdog will get kids excited and neighbors envious of the fun. Click the image for the latest prices and size options on Amazon.
This tube also comes with a full nylon cover, keeping it durable against the stresses of the water.
Perhaps the most notable advantage of this tube is that it is very streamlined. This means less drag on the water and an easier towing experience for the personal watercraft.
It also makes launching it and use at slower speeds more viable, allowing even the younger users to enjoy the experience. It is more of a straight line and gentle turn tube. Rapid direction changes will just roll the riders over and off.
On the other hand, it is fun to jump wake and choppy waters at slow speeds on this tube. And when riders do fall off, they usually move away from each other rather than colliding, lowering the chance of injury (and arguments if anything like my kids.)
If your front rider is heavy, they can cause this to submarine. This can be accidental or on purpose. It is also quite an experience for the driver to be yelled at by all the other parents and grandparents on the boat at the same time, while the kids are yelling “do that again!” It pays to read your audience.
After the Hot Dog tube, it’s probably best to return to something more familiar.
With the Airhead Blast that’s exactly what you’re getting, the familiar tubing experience.
A classic donut shape and a single rider experience, the way the original tubes started out.
This is by no means an outdated tube though, including most of the bells and whistles of the more extravagant towables.
With a tough partial nylon cover and padded handles, it provides a sturdy ride on the water.
You can check out all sizes available by clicking the image to the Amazon listing.
Although there are multi-rider options available with this tube, the single rider version provides the most practical package.
This makes it a lightweight and easily transported tube, perfect for personal watercraft towing.
Made with quality materials, the Airhead Blast also features a speed safety valve and kwik-connect feature like others on this list, making setup and pack up an easy process.
Overall, if you’re just looking for some straightforward tubing fun, this one is probably the one for you.
The last round tube on our list is a bit of a blend. The Airhead Super Slice has the shape of the regular donut tube except that there is no seating position.
Instead, the riders lay on their stomachs and hang on using the comfortable grips provided.
What makes this floatable notable is that it is a 3-rider tube but still very lightweight, allowing it to be towed by a personal watercraft with great efficiency.
If the regulations of your area permit it, this tube is a great one to bring the friends along. It is also made of hardy materials and includes a full nylon cover like others on this list, prioritizing both safety and long-term use.
Again, this tube also includes the Kwik Connect and speed safety valve systems for a quick and easy setup. Speeds can be more aggressive, and the rider can switch hand grips when whipping left or right.
On top of this, the color scheme and style of this tube makes it stand out on the water.
No collection of towable tubes would be complete without at least one 2-rider tube with uplifted edges. We’ve gone through 4 or 5 different variations of these over the last 25 years.
Our current tubes are no longer available due to upgrades and design changes. So when it’s time for us to replace what we call our “batwing tubes,” we’ll likely buy the Airhead Rock Star.
I like the idea that my niece and nephew are still young enough to use it as a raft during breaks by sitting and rocking on it or jumping off.
And then it’s large enough for two adults to ride at decent speeds and can handle the driver’s circles, turns and my favorite move: the figure 8. That’s when you can really chop up the water to get some good tube jumps in.
Just be sure you have your head on a swivel, scanning 360 degrees around for other boats, craft, or debris. Then let loose. Watch the rope for any developing slack. Be sure to slow if that happens until the rope tightens up.
The following product can help with some of that.
This one isn’t a tube but an additional accessory that makes the towing experience a little smoother.
The Sportsstuff Towable Booster is a floatable that is designed to lift the tow rope out of the water.
Connected between rider and watercraft the Booster glides along the top of the water, reducing drag and strain on the craft. It serves to keep the rope taught and also helps prevent impeller rope damage.
Made from the same tough stuff as the top tubes, the Towable Booster is also good at absorbing some of the impact and shock along the tow rope.
For a personal watercraft, these reductions can make quite a significant difference and even save a bit of fuel in the long run.
You also always need to use the correct rope for tubing. Ski and boarding ropes with handles don’t work with tubing. Most tubes either have a canvas loop or a quick connect.
Here are a couple of tubing specific ropes available on Amazon. Remember to consider length when purchasing. Tube strength needed depends on number of riders you plan on pulling.
Tubing can be done with slightly shorter ropes, although this limits the sideways speed and distance possible during advanced moves.
How to Keep Safe While Towing
There is no denying the excitement of going tubing. It’s a thrilling experience for everybody.
Plus, there’s a good bit of exercise involved, it’s all outdoors, and it even brings friends and families together.
While there are a lot of plus sides to this popular past time, there are also some notable dangers involved.
Be Aware of the Risk
First, just because these tubes are rather easy to ride and have modern safety features does not mean there is less responsibility involved.
In fact, it is often this complacency that leads to accidents and careless mistakes.
This especially applies around children and their ability to handle the responsibilities of safe tubing. (Source)
Wear the Safety Gear
Different places will have different requirements regarding safety gear whilst tubing.
However, it is always a good idea to wear a lifejacket or personal flotation device (PFD), whether you’re the driver, spotter, or rider.
For younger riders, helmets are also a good option, as well as for anyone riding on the larger, multi-seater tubes in a group.
According to a study, over 25% of the injuries sustained while tubing are to the head (source).
Abusing the Tube Limits
The seating options on any tubes must be adhered to strictly. The exploitation of this aspect can cause damage to the riders and the tubes.
It is also advisable to maintain the condition of your tube and store it safely. A damaged tube is a dangerous one.
When it comes to tubing there is actually very little control for the riders, as mentioned in the above video. Most of the steering is handled by the driver of the watercraft and as such should be done mindfully.
This is the reason most places insist on having a spotter on board, to allow communication between riders and driver at all times.
Erratic movements from the driver dramatically affect the lightweight towables so be extra cautious during turns and closer to the shoreline.
Now comes the hard part: taking note of all these safety measures and seeing them through.
After that, it’s just fun in the sun with a high chance of getting wet!
It is clear now that tubing behind a personal watercraft is an exciting experience.
It is also evident that there’s a lot to understand about this sport.
From the restrictions to the capabilities and everywhere in between, knowing what’s involved makes it a safer and more enjoyable experience.
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