tubing behind a jet ski

Aquatic Alternatives: Yes, You Absolutely Can Go Tubing Behind a Jet Ski

If you’ve ever been out on local lakes or rivers, you’ve probably seen a boat slinging somebody around on a tube. Flailing legs and high-pitched screams might make you a bit envious to join the fun. Or maybe your kids are begging for some tube time.

Rather than hurry out and buy a deck boat, center console or cabin cruiser, why not use a jet ski?

Whether you call it a Jet Ski, a Wave Runner or a Sea-Doo (all brand names of personal watercraft made by Kawasaki, Yamaha and Sea-Doo), a personal watercraft (PWC) is a surprisingly great way to tow a tube.

Powerful, compact and convenient tow vessels, even wakeboarders and water-skiers can be towed behind a jet ski. Plus, they’re more affordable than boats.

Still not convinced? Read on for benefits, hints and tips on tubing behind a jet ski. The kids will thank you.

Benefits of Tubing Behind a Jet Ski

Like I mentioned above, tubing behind a jet ski is a great alternative to buying a boat. When you factor in ease of transport and launch, shallow water issues and expense, it makes perfect sense.

Easier to Launch Than a Boat

Take my word for it, jet skis are much easier to launch than boats. They’re easy to launch on and off the trailer, and you can do it quickly without worry of a whole line of trailers waiting on you to pull away from the boat dock—a definite stress-inducer for me with boat launching. My favorite local marina even has a separate ramp for jet skis.

Easy to Transport

If you have a large boat, you probably keep it in the water or nearby on land. Perhaps it’s too big to trailer to different destinations. The compact size of a jet ski and trailer allows you to take it most anywhere. You can tow the kids around nearby lakes and rivers while enjoying new scenery.

Navigate Narrow Canals

With a jet ski, you can explore narrow canals and small coves much easier than with a boat. You will want to use caution when towing a tube in this scenario. Too fast of a turn could send the tube (with the rider on it) up onto the shore.

Shallow Water is No Problem

Have you ever run aground in a boat? No need to answer … it’s not something any of us want to have happen.

Jet skis were practically made for shallow water. Since there’s no propeller underneath (it’s jet-driven, hence the name jet ski), you can pull right up to the shoreline when you want to explore or take a break. This is another thing I love about my jet ski.

No Harm to Wildlife

As mentioned above, jet skis don’t have propellers underneath so there’s no worry of accidentally striking plants, submerged stumps or marine animals. Just watch out for seaweed in the intake grate.

More Affordable Than a Boat

Most brand new jet skis come in at under $10,000, which includes all the bells and whistles most of us regular riders wouldn’t necessarily need. You can find a used model for under $5,000. If you’re handy with a wrench, you can find a slightly more “used” one for even less. I’ve been riding one of those “refurbished” skis for several years with no problems. It handles great and tows perfectly.

Considerations for Tubing Behind a Jet Ski

Know the laws. More than anything else, the biggest concern with tubing behind a jet ski is proper compliance with rules and regulations.

Most states require jet skis to be a three-seater—one person to drive, one spotter and a space for the tuber or skier.

Many states also require mirrors. When the jet ski does have mirrors, one person can operate the ski while two ride the tube.

Check out the United States Coast Guard’s website for laws and regulations on personal watercraft use, as well as general boating information. States do vary, so please be sure to find out the stats on your state. Here are some points to remember when preparing to go tubing behind a jet ski.

  • The jet ski should have at least 110-horsepower.
  • The jet ski needs to have a U-bolt or a ski eye to attach the tow rope (also where the clip is attached while on the trailer).
  • All riders (including the jet ski driver) must be wearing a life jacket.

Tips for Tubing Behind a Jet Ski

If you’ve been riding jet skis for a while, or have ever towed a tube in a boat, you’re already ahead of the game. Here are a few tips:

  • Use a 100-foot tow rope to ensure the tow rope doesn’t get pulled into the pump. You’ll want to avoid this mishap.
  • Maintain a steady speed. You’ll want to stay at around 20 mph for a consistent ride.
  • Add a Booster Ball. This Airhead Bob Tow Rope (Check Price on Amazon) will help keep the tow rope out of the water. When the rope drags in the water, it creates, well, drag. This can make for a slow ride, as well as spray tube riders. It’s also another way to keep the tow rope from getting sucked up into the pump.

Models of Jet Skis for Tubing

With so many personal watercraft models on the market, it can be overwhelming to even begin to decide. I did a little searching and came up with a watercraft wish list of sorts. Bear in mind, these are brand new models, so the price factor is going to be at full retail.

Kawasaki Jet Ski STX-15F

tubing behind a jet ski

Sporty and fast with powerful acceleration, the Kawasaki Jet Ski STX-15F seats three and provides plenty of storage space. It has a large rear deck so the tuber can easily get on board when they’ve had enough tube time. You’ll appreciate this feature.

Sea-Doo Wake 155HP

tubing behind a jet ski

The three-seater Sea-Doo Wake 155HP was made for tubing, wakeboarding and skiing. It has a retractable 3-position ski pylon with spotter handgrips, a board rack, a fold-down re-boarding ladder and an exclusive Ski Mode. The handgrips alone sell this one for me.

Yamaha Wave Runner VX Cruiser HO

tubing behind a jet ski

The Yamaha WaveRunner VX Cruiser HO is a top-of-the-line personal watercraft. It has a comfortable three-seat design, dual mirrors, a tow hook and a large swim platform with a re-boarding step. The glovebox even has cupholders.

Sea-Doo Recreation GTS

tubing behind a jet ski

The Sea-Doo Recreation GTS is a great all-around PWC for families. It seats three and has lots of storage for tow ropes, towels and gear. It has wide angle mirrors, a tow hook, a rear grab handle and a Sport Mode for more acceleration.

Characteristics of a Great Tube

Now that you’ve gotten a peek at some jet ski models on the market, you’ll want to think about a tube (if you don’t already have one). Just like jet skis, tubes come in all shapes and sizes. You should also consider the size and age of the riders. Here are a few features to look for in a good towable tube:

  • PVC bladder
  • Boston valves for easy inflation and deflation
  • Sturdy and padded grab handles
  • Padded seat and sides
  • Nylon tow hooks with quick-connect capability

Top 4 Tubes for Towing Behind a Jet Ski

From Airhead to O’Brien and Yamaha, here are a few of the top brands and models to tow behind a jet ski. I’m partial to Airhead’s Big Mable.

1. Airhead-Sportsstuff Big Mable 2

Check Price on Amazon

tubing behind a jet ski

The classic Big Mable is bright, colorful and lots of fun. It seats up to two people and has two riding positions for forward or backward towing. Riders can sit, stand, lay or kneel. Lots of padding and multiple grab handles make it a comfortable and safe ride.

2. Airhead AHRE-2 Revolution Deluxe

Check Price on Amazon

tubing behind a jet ski

This is the tube for the adventurous tubers in your group. Two riders lay across the top, and it revolves as it’s being pulled across the water. It has a topside divider fin and two leg fins to keep riders on board. Good luck with that!

3. O’Brien Screamer One-Passenger

Check Price on Amazon

tubing behind a jet ski

Easy inflation and a quick connect make the O’Brien Screamer One-Passenger Tube a great basic tube. It’s 60 inches in diameter, seats one rider and has four handles with EVA knuckle guards.

4. Yamaha 2-Rider Winged Deck Tube

Check Price at Yamaha

tubing behind a jet ski

Shaped like a wing, the Yamaha Winged Deck Tube is thinner at the back for easy entry. Riders lay flat and hold on at the front. Neoprene pads protect knees and elbows. The handles also have neoprene knuckle guards. It has a quick-connect tow clip, a reinforced PVC bladder and Boston valves for quick and easy inflation and deflation. I’m imagining a flying sensation with this one.

Hopefully you’ve gotten a handle on the tips and tricks of tubing behind a jet ski. Now what are you waiting for? Fire up that ski and get out on the water!


Sandy Allen is a freelance writer in Richmond, Virginia. Her specialties range from hotels, islands and yacht charters to theme parks and family fun. She enjoys boating, snorkeling and jet-skiing along the waterways of Virginia, Florida and North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Check out her blog at Somewhere in the Sand.