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Buying Guide | Water Towables



No matter what type of outdoor water sports activity you enjoy, water towables are Tubing Behind a Boatessential to a true water sports experience and family fun. Tubing, as it is commonly known, has come a long way from the days where riders just simply cruised around the water. New designs, new materials, and new features have allowed tubing to expand to a hi-tech, thrill-seeking extreme sport. With all of the “new-fangled” technology that is being put into tubes these days, it is essential to understand some of the basics so that you may select a tube that fits your desired use. Tubing is tops when it comes to water sports activities because no matter what skill level a person possesses, the fun will be enjoyed by all.





Nylon is the most commonly used material for towable covers. It typically comes in different weights or thicknesses, commonly referred to as denier. The greater the denier number, the stronger the nylon is going to be. Note here that higher denier numbers will typically be found on more expensive towables or tubes that are designed for multiple riders.


As a guideline, a 420 denier is typically used on less expensive and single rider towable. This denier is lighter, thinner, and should only be considered when purchasing a single-rider towable.


An 840 denier is the heaviest nylon you will find in towables. Deniers at this weight are not simply heavier, but they are also stronger and used typically in more expensive, larger towables.



Polyester is another commonly used material in towables. Polyester coated with PVC is often used to strengthen Polyester and provide an additional alternative to high denier nylon. 600 denier coated with PVC Vinyl will be as strong as 840 denier nylon.


Polyester is also found in a “solution-dyed” form, most typically on boat lift canopies or awnings, due to its color retention and non-fading properties. Treated polyesters have good durability and resistance to fading from the sun. Note: 600 Denier Treated Polyester is found in place of nylon on 1 and 2-rider towables.

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PVC (Vinyl)


In addition to being used as a coating material on bottoms of new materials, PVC Vinyl is also the material used for all of the bladders, or inner tubes, of towables. The material comes in several thicknesses, measured by gauge. All PVC used in towables range from 24-gauge to 30-gauge, and are considered to be heavy duty. As a comparison, inexpensive pool toys are considered to be made of standard or light duty material (10-gauge to 14-gauge).



Neoprene is a common material in wetsuits. It is a soft, four-way stretch nylon or polyester material that covers a soft foam layer. This material can also be used as a soft covering over nylon or polyester towable covers. Neoprene provides an added level of comfort and also prevents against skin chaffing in areas of high-rub; areas such as under the handles, knees, ankles, head, and elbows. Neoprene is typically found in more expensive towables.

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Nowadays towables are available in a variety of shapes and sizes. The shape of a towable is one of the determining factors of how the towable performs on the water, in addition to boat driving and body position.

Round Donut


Call it traditional, old-school, original, or the good ol’ reliable, but the point remains that the round donut towable is the oldest shape and most affordable towable on the market. While originally designed to be just a single-rider tube, this shape now comes in a number of sizes, allowing for multi-rider configurations.


Adults will typically use it as a lay-on-top towable and find it easy to get the tube outside of the wake. Due to its small size and high center of gravity, this shape towable tends to roll over quite easily.


In comparison, children will find this shape somewhat uncomfortable because of the size of the center hole. It is often too small to sit in and too large to lay on for younger children.


The Bottom Line: Ideal for first-time buyers due to the price. Not recommended for the young ride due to the uncomfortable ride and high tipping probability.

Deck Tubes


Deck tubes are flat, lay-on-top towables that come in a number of different shapes. Whether round, D-shaped, or delta-shaped, deck tubes can be used by as few as 1 rider and as many as 4 riders simultaneously. Deck tubes typically are fully covered, offering a thrill-riding experience. Deck tubes can cross wake easily and their low-profile keep the rider’s face close to the water for a true speed experience on the water.


Deck tubes have a large exposed flat surface that make them prone to flipping, particularly when going over bumps and during whip turns. This makes body position of the rider(s) important for staying on as long as possible.


The Bottom Line: Ideal for teenagers and young adult riders who seek a thrill. Deck Tubes are challenging and fun all around.

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Just like deck tubes, ride-in tubes come in a variety of shapes and sizes that allow for anywhere from 1 to 4 riders simultaneously. The term ‘ride-in’ means just that…the rider sits down inside of the towable. Most models have inflated floors or seating areas that provide comfortable, dry areas for the rider.


More expensive ride-in tubes offer neoprene head rests as well as fully nylon-covered sides and floors. Usually riders will be hard-pressed to tip ride-in tubes due to their low center of gravity.


The Bottom Line: Ideal for young children and adults who prefer dry, comfortable experiences. Ride-in tubes provide the feeling of comfort and security while still providing a thrilling rider experience.



If Ride-in tubes mean that the rider rides inside of the towable, you may be able to guess what a Ride-on tube is, but allow us to explain more about them anyway. Ride-on tubes are available in many shapes and sizes to accommodate up to 6 riders simultaneously. As opposed to sitting down inside of the towable, Ride-on tubes require the rider to sit atop or to straddle the fuselage of torpedo Ride-on tubes, or sitting in a recumbent style tubes.


Torpedo towables are designed for multiple riders and have the least amount of whip of all tubes. They can be somewhat unstable due to their long, narrow shape and high center of gravity.


Recumbent towables come in a D-shape design and provide riders with the thrills of deck tubes while remaining seated upright with head and back areas supported.


The Bottom Line: Ideal for multiple riders (Torpedo design) who wish to enjoy the thrills with their friends and family. Recumbent design towables are ideal for who seek the high-speed tubing thrills while seated in a supported upright position.

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Rocker designs are present in two types. The first type of Rocker design is the U-shape design. This design is a continuous rocker that flows evenly from one side to the other like a U.


The second Rocker shape is known as the 3-stage rocker, consisting of turned up wings on each side and a flat area which the riders lay or sit on. This design creates a tremendous thrill in extreme whip situations as the tube will actually ride up on the wings, while seldom rolling over. This Rocker shape is very stable when airborne over wake, making for fewer spills and far more thrills.


The Bottom Line: Ideal for any rider, any age, and any ability. All are welcome here!



Designed specifically for performance, concept towables can fly, roll, and perform other unique tubing experiences. Typically more expensive, concept tubes can provide a unique thrill that is unmatched with any other towable.


The Bottom Line: Ideal for extreme riders who are looking for a unique thrill ride.

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Driver Instructions


We understand that this is a buying guide, and that you can’t exactly “buy” driver instructions for water towables. However, that does not mean that they cannot contribute to a better tubing experience if they are understood. Aside from guiding you towards buying the towable that is right for you, we see it as only fair to provide some instruction on how to maximize the enjoyment of your purchase, while staying safe.


Water skiing and wakeboarding are rider controlled water sports activities. Comparatively, towables are reliant upon the boat driver to create the experience by changing direction and creating centrifugal force. The boat driver must follow certain boating rules and make certain that the tube riders are safe, and that surrounding boat, tubers, and skiers are safe.


Assure you have legal seating on your boat for each rider of the towable.


Due to the side-to-side swinging motion of the tube, it is imperative to select a safe are for towing the tube and rider. Keep minimum 100-feet of unobstructed water on each side of the boat and at least 3,000 feet in front of the boat.


Speeds should not exceed 15mph for children and 20mph for adults.


To produce a “whip-effect”, if desired, make long 45-degree sweeping turns while keeping constant pressure on the tube and tow rope. If you start accelerating into a new turn with slack still in the rope, you may cause serious injury to the rider such as whiplash. The driver of the boat needs to accelerate as the boat turns to the right and continue accelerating until the towable crosses the wake. At this time, the driver shall decelerate and let the towable carry outward until the rope tightens before commencing the next turn. Note: A towbable in a whip will travel much faster than the boat itself. It is imperative that the boat decelerate after the towable has crossed the wake.


Boater courtesy is important and works both ways. When turning the boat back to pick up fallen riders, or simply tube in a different direction, always make a large gentle turn with no acceleration. Always maintain a general direction while pulling tubes and make it obvious to other boaters the intent of your direction. By doing this, other boat operators can predict where you are going and make the appropriate adjustments of their vessel.


Coordinate hand signals with tube riders, like those outlined in ourBoating Hand Signals article, so that the boat driver and the rider can communicate during the ride.


In addition to the driver and the tube rider, it is highly recommended that one additional person be on the boat with an indicator flag. It is the job of this person to watch the towable at all times. If the rider of the towable falls, he/she will use the indicator flag to signify to other vessels that riders are being picked up and they should steer clear.



Bear in mind that the rope that you use for water ski ropes is not designed with tubing in mind. Tow ropes, or tube ropes, are specifically designed with higher break strengths and less stretch than a standard water ski rope. Tube ropes are recommended by the Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA) and designed with the number riders being pulled in mind. Basically, a two person tube rope for a towable designed for two people, a three person tube rope for a three person towable and so on. Note: Never pull a multi-rider towable with a rope that is not recommended for the size of the tube, regardless of the number of people you have on board.


Your tube rope should be a minimum of 50′ in length and should not exceed 65′.


Tube ropes should have a loop at both ends for quick and convenient connection and never be tied to a towable or boat harness.





Specification & Guidelines


Number of Riders

Combined Weight of Riders

Rope Tensile Strength


170 lbs

1500 lbs


340 lbs

2375 lbs


510 lbs

3350 lbs


680 lbs

4100 lbs




Note: Check with the manufacturer of your specific towable product for tow rope specifications. The specifications outlined above are meant to be a guideline ONLY and are recommendations of the Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA).


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