Biscuits, donuts, bananas and rocket ships; they have all been towed behind a boat travelling at high speed at one time or another. And usually, the whole event has ended with someone bouncing off and crashing face first into the water at high speed to the delight of their friends looking on from the stern of the boat.
Tubing is heaps of fun, not least because falling off the tube is more than half the enjoyment. Tow tubes come in a huge range of shapes and configurations; some are designed to carry just one tuber, others can take two or more people on a hectic, mostly uncontrollable ride in the wake of the chosen powered water craft.
Tow tubes are connected to the stern of the watercraft by a rope which is secured to the tube itself, leaving the tubers hands-free to hang on for dear life as their donut shaped vessel bounces and spins, skimming along the surface of the water. The pilot of the boat can influence the tube’s trajectory, all they have to do is turn and watch the tube continue on its course exiting the wake getting some serious air time as it ramps off the lip of the wake – a great way to eject a tuber who has had their fair share of a turn.
How does a tube work?
Towable tubes are usually made from modern synthetic materials such as PVC or plastic and are inflated making them lightweight and comfortable to bounce around on.
Regardless whether it is tube-shaped or not, the tube will need to have a flat bottom. The inflatable part of the tube is sheathed in a canvas or synthetic weave cover that is incredibly strong. It provides the tuber with a solid surface to sit or lie on, but also to hold the tube in shape when it is being dragged across the surface of the water.
The cover will also usually have a series of handles placed at intervals around the tube so that one or multiple tubers can hang on and adjust their position as the tube rotates.
Biscuits – as they are sometimes called – are often towed at very high speeds to make the ride thrilling for the tuber. For this very reason, it is important that the correct safety measures are followed to reduce the chance of risk or injury should the tuber fall off the tube at high speed. There are a few key things to consider while towing a tube, and while being towed:
Communication: It is incredibly important that both the tuber and the pilot of the powered watercraft know how to communicate with one another, and that the driver follows the signals from the tuber. Never go faster than the tuber wants to; if they signal to slow down, slow down.
Turning: While your boat can change course, the tube is at the whim of momentum until the rope pulls it round to follow the boat on its new trajectory. For this reason, before making turns you need to make sure that there is nothing that the tuber could collide with as the boat accelerates away. Always operate your boat a safe distance from shore and follow the regulations put in place by the local marine authorities.
Life jackets: Tubers should always be wearing a certified personal flotation device. If they bounce out of the tube or let go, you need to be sure that they can float comfortably until the boat can return to pick them up.
Helmets: In some cases you may be required by law to wear a helmet while tubing a the collisions that can occur carry a risk of head injury. This is an especially good idea if there is more than one person riding the tube. Heads banging together can end the day’s fun pretty quickly.