Choosing watersports towables can be like deciding which thrill ride you want to take at a theme park. It all depends on your level of courage and how much you want to laugh and scream as your waterborne joyride is towed behind the boat.
What’s so cool about towables? Unlike skiing and wakeboarding, there is no required skill involved, making them ideal for all ages, depending on the size, shape and speed at which they are towed. All it takes is climbing aboard, sitting or lying down and hanging on for the wet and wild ride.
Today’s towables are nothing like their predecessors—inflated truck-sized inner tubes tethered by a row rope. When the ride is over, many towables can double as sun loungers, tied off the boat or a dock or pulled onto the shoreline and used like a beach or lounge chair.
Add thrills, laughs and dares to your boating lifestyle with a towable. Go fancy or stay basic. Either way, you get the most bang for the buck with a water toy that can be tossed in the water and enjoyed by all. Use this helpful guide to help you decide which is best for you and your family.
Towables are classified by the number of riders they are designed to carry. Single- or two-person tubes are ideal for younger children or first-timers so an older kid or expert can ride along. They are more compact and perfectly sized for smaller boats, particularly outboard-powered boats with limited cockpit space.
You can inflate the towable at the start of the season and deflate it at summer’s end—garage space permitting. Or, you can deflate after each trip. If that’s your choice, you’ll want to buy an electric or battery-powered pump to make the job quicker and easier.
Above all else, do not tow more riders than the passenger load recommended by the manufacturer. It’s unsafe, risks damaging the tube and modifies the performance of the ride.
You can fudge a bit on the space limitations—inside the garage and aboard the boat—by shopping for tubes of different shapes. Here are a few ideas.
Choose a tow rope as recommended by the manufacturer for safety and performance, taking into consideration tensile strength and length. Tow ropes for water skiing and wakeboarding are not sufficient, because they are too weak for towing riders and the tube.
The Water Sports Industry Association specifies that tube ropes must be at least 50 feet in length and no longer than 65 feet. Single-rider towables require rope rated at 1,500 pounds, with tensile strengths increasing with tube size.
Never use a tow rope that is knotted, frayed or sun damaged to avoid the line snapping while the towable is being towed. Always connect the rope at both sides to an approved attachment point like the eyelet on the tube. The ideal setup is a tow rope with built-in clips that can be secured to the towable and a ski tow pylon/ring on the boat. Never secure the towable by tying a knot in the rope or by connecting it to a tower.
Save time and energy by using a DC-powered pump that can be powered aboard the boat. You can also use AC-powered pumps, but those cannot be taken with you in the boat.
Make sure you have the correct fittings for the pump, according to the type of stem on the towable. There are three standard types—Boston valve, stem and speed valve.
Towables should be inflated until the tube is firm and free of bubbles or wrinkles. Also keep in mind that inflation levels can change depending on water temperatures and sun exposure.
Use common sense when towing a tube and riders. Never start the engine until riders are onboard and give the sign that they are ready to go. Designate a spotter that you can see and hear as you drive. Gradually throttle up, first pulling the tube inside the boat wake. With the riders settled in and comfortable, you can add speed and let the fun begin. Make some gentle S-turns so the tube swings from side to side, and even across the boat wake.
You can have just as much fun driving the boat while watching the riders smile, laugh and scream. What is more, your turn might be next!