The Essential Guide to Making Tubing Safe for Everyone

How To Tow A Tube Behind A Boat

At first glance, tubing is like riding a roller coaster on the water. It’s fast and exciting whether it’s your first time or a regular activity. While it’s not rocket science, it requires a cool head and some smart thinking to avoid becoming a statistic. Injuries or even deaths can occur if safety takes a backseat to safety. Keep reading to learn how to tow a tube behind a boat.

Participation and Accidents

Boating is the great American past time with more than 87 million people getting on the water. Nearly 40 percent participate in a towed watersport, whether it’s waterskiing, wakeboarding, or tubing. The first two require some skill and experience. Towing a tube is easy with just a few pieces of gear. That simplicity belies the fact that there still are risks unless you want to start looking at new boat prices.

The US Coast Guard reported that there were 338 injuries and 19 deaths from towed watersports. The top contributing factors were:

  • Skipper inattention
  • Improper lookout
  • Operator inexperience
  • Mechanical failure
  • Alcohol use

The first two reasons are especially disturbing, given that children participate in this activity. It is imperative that one person on the boat keep an eye on the individuals in the tube while the captain drives. They can’t do both without risking safety. Lack of experience and alcohol use are also remedied with common sense and education.

The latter works too. Operators who haven’t taken a safety course were over five times more likely to have a boating accident. It’s pitiful given the fact that there are free opportunities and online offerings. The navigation rules are common sense and easy to understand. There are courses for boats and personal watercraft to put you in the know.

Must-Dos for Safe Tubing

First and foremost, there have to be at least two individuals in the craft before you tow a tube. One person will keep an eye on the people in the back. The driver stays focused on the water ahead and the area around the boat. These precautions are the same for other towing sports like waterskiing. Some states allow the use of an extra large rearview mirror that will give the captain a complete view.

You should only use equipment designated for tubing. Regular inflatable air mattresses and water toys are not strong enough to withstand the rigors of towing. You will also need a tow rope and connector. Again, only use products that match the load on the tube. You will see this spec listed as break strength or the number of passengers.

And leave the bravado and tough-guy talk on the shore. Tubing is serious business when you in charge of your passengers’ safety. It’s not a time for showing off or pushing the limits.

Before and After Safety

When learning about how to tow a tube behind a boat, it all begins with safety. Tubing isn’t an expensive sport—not counting the ride. However, it’s smart to do a routine check every time you go out on the water.

Before You Tow

The first thing that you, as the captain, must do is to inspect the tube and equipment. Make sure the rope isn’t frayed. Test the connector to verify that it latches properly. Inspect it before and after you inflate it. Look for any signs of damage, especially around the tow points. Examine both sides.

Make sure to load the tube with the designated number of passengers. Have everyone agree on how they will signal to the spotter if they want the boat to go faster, slower, or stop.

It’s imperative to make wearing a personal floatation device (PFD) a boat rule. No one goes into the water without one. Most victims drown, with nearly 85 percent not wearing one.

After Tubing

It’s essential to allow the tube to dry out completely before you store it. Mildew and mold can deteriorate the material. And the time you’ll find out that there is a leak is when you’re on the water. Take the time to wipe it off to keep it clean for the next riders.

Dont's to Remember When Tubing

There are several things you shouldn’t do while tubing to keep everyone safe. Some directly impact safety while others center on proper boater etiquette. After all, you don’t want to be that guy. Remember, tubing is about having fun not trying to scare the passengers or risk injury to anyone whether they’re on your boat or in one passing you.

Don’t Tow Through Channels or No-Wake Areas

These areas require the captain’s full attention. Often, they are congested, making towing difficult at all times. A risk also exists that the tube—and its passengers—will get too close to the prop. The potential also exists that the line will wrap around it too, putting you in the market for used outboard motors. Sometimes these places are narrower too, making it difficult to maneuver.

You’ll likely find that laws and regs exist that prohibit towing a tube anyway. Don’t take a chance on getting boarded.

Pay Attention to Channel Markers and Other Navigational Aids

Collisions with other boats or fixed objects were the top two reasons for accidents. One way to keep everyone safe is to heed the navigational buoys and markers. They will warn of possible hazards based on the color and other symbology. The meanings are universal with some locational differences on some bodies of water.

Don’t Whip the Tube Around With Sharp Turns

No matter how much someone pleads, do not take sharp turns that will whip the tube close to the boat. It’s of particular concern if there aren’t enough or adequate handles. A risk exists that a passenger will fall off in the path of another vessel that is underway.

Don’t Buzz Anchored Boaters

This one is not as much a rule as it is common-sense boater’s etiquette. When you’re tubing, you’re likely going fast. That’s fine in open water but not when you’re doing donuts around an anchored vessel. Don’t go tubing in a small bay filled with other ones not under command. It’s rude to throw up a wake when people are trying to relax and watch the world go by.

Besides, the force of an unexpected wave caused 169 accidents in 2017.

Tubing is an enjoyable activity to make the most out of your time on the water. You’ll make it more worthwhile if you follow the rules of the road and play it safe. The consequences are costly, especially if it leaves you checking prices with a boat payment calculator or shopping used outboard motors. Make the lakes, seas, and rivers free from danger so that everyone can savor their boating.