Your kids are more than ready for a fun-filled day tubing on the water.
They’re begging you to take them out on the water when the weather’s nice.
They’ve done all their homework early and cleaned their rooms in the hopes of staying in your good graces.
Any parent with a boat and a couple of kids is familiar with this scenario.
And you might love that they love tubing so much!
But do you know how to keep them safe?
Do you know how to keep adults safe while tubing, for that matter?
We’re here to help, because tubing accidents are on the rise.
Our hope is that these tips might prevent another accident from happening.
Of course, a physical activity like tubing is never without its bumps and bruises—those are to be expected once in a while.
As long as you’re navigating the waters safely and minding the kids in the tubes, there should be no reason to experience anything worse than a tumble or two into the water.
15 Tubular Tips for Towing Tubers Behind Your Boat
1. Know Thy Enemy
Yes, yes. Injuries can happen while tubing. Usually, it’s nothing to really worry about, especially when everyone involved in the tubing day is properly instructed and wearing the proper safety gear—which we’ll get to in a few.
Luckily, simple awareness can save the day. It can help you prepare yourself for safe tubing and prevent any serious injuries.
That’s why there’s some serious research done on this topic. Here are some of the most common tubing injuries, according to a recent study:
1. Upper extremities. (This includes the shoulders, forearms, wrists, and hands, as well as any part of the arm.)
2. Head injuries. (Kids can bump heads with other riders, or even collide with other tubers.)
3. Sprains and strains.
4. Injuries to muscles, tendons and ligaments.
5. Water impact injuries. (Yep, you know what this is. It’s when you’re thrown from the tube and hit the water.)
6. Collisions with other tubes and tubers. (You’re nodding, because it’s probably happened to you.)
7. Collision with debris. (How many times have you been pulled over a large stick? Ouch!)
8. Tube malfunction. (Have you, or one of your friends, had a tube pop, rupture or deflate suddenly? No fun, huh?)
In the recent years of this safety research, tubers under age 20 have seen more head injuries than any other age group. These mainly resulted from colliding with another tuber.
Why? Probably because kids like to tube together. (And, yep, it’s lots more fun with friends!) Young riders may also take risks that adults hesitate to take.
Over age 20, tubers were seen to have suffered more knee injuries, sprains and strains, especially from water impact accidents. Yep, these older bodies just don’t do what they used to. Being bumped and tossed around—and just doing some athletic activity in general—can really do a number on you when you’re a little less youthful.
Keep these things in mind when teaching your tubers what to expect on the water. Tell the adults to warm up and cool down with stretches, and to take it easy on their first few runs. Have the kids take separate turns, or at least wear helmets.
2. Read the Manuals
You should always follow your manufacturer instructions.
Before hitting the water, it’s important to check your owner manuals (and tags) for important instructions you might not consider.
So check for any additional instructions on your tubes, your rider equipment, your towing rope and even your boat, assuming you don’t know that book like the back of your hand. Check to see if the manufacturer has issued any special tubing instructions.
Once you’ve covered your bases, you’ll feel more secure when your kids are tubing.
3. Be Familiar with Your Riders
Lots of folks don’t think about this, but it’s important.
This can help you determine how fast/slow to go, how far to go, how much guidance is needed, if riders need extra protection and how fearful your tubers are.
These are some things you should know before you pull a rider:
- What’s their age?
- Will it be a multiple or single rider?
- What’s the rider’s knowledge level/experience?
- Is the rider familiar with tubing and tubing equipment?
I won’t tell you what’s right in every situation, but you’ll want to mull these questions over for every individual tuber you pull. With less age and experience—or with more people on the tow line at once—you’ll want to go easier on the speed and turns.
Tip: If you’re pulling someone else’s child, it might even be a good idea to get a signed parental release (especially if his/her parents aren’t with you, and/or you don’t know them well).
4. Know Your Boat
Before tubing, make sure you know how your boat pulls tubers.
Since you’re pulling tubes, it’s important to know how your boat reacts. Ask yourself these questions about your boat:
- Does your boat accelerate properly or too fast? Do you have a lead foot, where you’re prone to over-accelerating sometimes?
- Does your boat have trouble pulling more than one rider?
- What’s your boat’s towing capacity?
- How about the weight capacity?
Checking the manuals in the previous step should’ve helped inform you a little more on these points. Take it for a test drive with need be—or even ask for a more experienced tuber to ride behind you while you get accustomed to towing.
Knowing all these things can help you be a better, more responsible driver.
5. Be Aware of Water Regulations
Depending on where you’re tubing, there’ll probably be water regulations governing where you are. It’s best to check into these before you go if you’ve never been out tubing before.
You should inquire about permits and fees, too.
This way, you can have a fun day without any surprises!
6. Always Have a Spotter on Board
It’s always a good idea to have at least one extra person on board to be your “spotter.”
They can watch for any accidents or issues your tuber may have, as well as other tubers and boats you need to avoid. The “spotter” can watch out for unexpected debris and strong wakes that might harm your kids.
You can even arrange some hand signals to communicate between the spotter and the tuber. For example, the tuber can give a thumbs up when they want more speed, a thumbs down when they want less speed, or a flat-palmed “stop” sign when they’re ready to stop.
With help from the spotter, you can keep your eyes focused on where you’re steering and know that the tuber is well taken care of.
7. Check Your Tube and Tow Line
First things first. Start with an amazing towable tube. You can see some our all-time favorites by clicking right here, but I can give you some special recommendations for the road.
To be a little more affordable or small-scale, you can start with this one-person Blast tube by Airhead (check price on Amazon).
On the other hand, if you’re looking something bigger to tow more people at once, check out this cool, four-person Airhead Switchback tube (check price on Amazon). It’s a real party tube!
Love the party tube approach? You can even tow up to six people with this crazy Airhead Mega Rock Star tube (check price on Amazon).
No matter which one you choose, you’ll want to follow the same pre-tubing checklist before getting people on board the tubes to tow them.
Inspect the tube very, very carefully, looking for rips, wear and tear, punctures or any other damage that might cause the tube to pop or deflate in action.
Then, you’ll need to turn your attention to the rope it’s attached to. With the right accessories in hand—like the Airhead tow rope and tube rope connector that’s recommended for all of the above tubes—you shouldn’t have to worry too much.
Still, better safe than sorry. Review the rope before you tow, and ask yourself the key questions:
- Is it properly secured?
- Is it torn or frayed?
- Is it made for towing and tubing?
- Are there any knots or tangles to be worked out?
All important things to watch out for before hitching up the tube. Inspect regularly during the day out too.
8. Be Careful with Multiple Tubers
Use extra caution when pulling more than one tube or multiple riders on one tube.
This causes additional risks. Extra precautions can reduce those risks.
Watch your speed more carefully, make sure everyone’s wearing helmets and cater to the needs of the less experienced person on the tow line.
9. Watch the Wakes
Be responsible and pay attention to wakes.
When tubing, the tube easily bounces off wakes; if you’re going too fast, the risk of injury is even higher.
So, slow down when crossing wakes (and waves) and don’t put your riders at risk.
10. Check: Is Your Rider Ready?
Pulling off before your rider is ready can put your rider(s) at risk for injuries.
Before leaving the dock, discuss what to check. Have them check:
- Their position: Are they centered on the tube?
- Tow-line grip: Are they holding on tightly, and in the correct place?
- Possible tangle(s) in tow line: Are there loops, knots or bulges in the line from your perspective?
- Their balance: Are they leaning too far back or forward, or just not ready to take off yet?
If all these are fine, it’s probably a “go.” Just ask first.
And don’t accelerate until you get a thumbs up!
11. Check the Forecast
This probably goes without saying for any experienced boats, but you should always check the forecast first.
Look for high winds and strong storms, especially lightning storms, as foul weather can put your tubers at risk. You don’t want to have to call it a day before anyone’s even gotten on the tube!
Download a few weather apps specifically for boaters.
12. Put On Lifejackets
Your child’s lifejacket will help him stay afloat if he’s knocked off the tube for any reason. It’s bound to happen that your tubers end up in the water, it’s just part of the sport—and a perfectly harmless and pleasant one as long as you’re prepared.
So, make sure you have a lifejacket that’s suitable for everyone who wants to ride the tube. This might mean you need a variety of lifejackets in different sizes and weight classes.
There are five types of lifejackets.
You’ll need to choose the best one for your tubing needs, mainly depending on who’s riding. First, read this complete guide to choosing the right lifejacket.
But to give you an example to set you in the right direction, this O’Neill lifejacket (check price on Amazon) would be a good choice for an adult man to wear while tubing.
Once you’ve chosen the class of lifejacket you’ll need, here’s what to check before buying or using a lifejacket:
- Is it made for recreational water sports?
- Is a certain type of water recommended or meant to be avoided?
- Is it the right size? Is them make child or adult, and what weight and height can it support?
- Are the arms too snug? (Tip: It shouldn’t be so tight in the arm area that they can’t hold onto the tube or the jacket properly.)
- Is the chest size okay? (Tip: Too loose and it may come off with a hard impact.)
- Do all the buckles snap properly?
Check in with everyone on board your boat and make sure they all have the right-fitting jackets.
13. Have Tubers Wear Helmets for Water Sports
We all know that helmets protect the head by:
- Protecting against hard impact falls
- Protecting against head collisions with other tubers
- Protecting the ears and eardrums
(Many folks forget that the ears needs protection, too; so it’s important to find a helmet that has ear guards.)
Here’s what to look for in a helmet:
1. ABS shell designed for high impact
2. Waterproof dual-density EVA liner
3. Cupping ear guards with water channels (Removable)
4. Interior fitted system to support/guard the back of the head
5. Vents for ventilation and water drainage
6. Certified (passed independent safety tests/standards)
Most helmets come in sizes ranging from small to extra-large; proper measuring can ensure a good fit. If in doubt, contact the manufacturer.
And if it doesn’t fit correctly, find one that does. There’s no wiggle room when it comes to helmet safety.
My recommendation, to give you a starting place, is this lightweight Dovewill helmet (check price on Amazon).
14. Bring Water Goggles
Goggles protect your eyes from water, bugs and debris.
When shopping, look for features such as good optics, moisture barriers, good seals, anti-fog features and adjustable chin straps.
My recommendation, which works for a wide range of people, is this simple pair of Speedo goggles (check price on Amazon).
Tip: Goggles with adjustable straps don’t mean that one size fits both children and adults. It’s best to try them on and size them accordingly. You’ll likely want to have a variety of goggles on board: One pair for children, one for adolescents, one for adults, at least.
15. Have Gloves on Hand
Gloves can protect hands from rope burns and provide a better grip. Here are some features to look for:
- Pre-curved fingers
- Waterproof/Water-resistant material
- Wide wrist strap for better fit
- Wear-resistant fabric
With the proper safety equipment, your kids can tube in high style and be protected. For example, NeoSports makes a great, sturdy pair of gloves (check price on Amazon).
By equipping your kids, and other tubers, with the proper safety equipment, tubing risks are dramatically reduced.
And by following all the other guidelines, you can reduce your risk even more.
Now, you can hit the water knowing your kids will be safe tubing all summer long!