The 10 Best Towable Tubes
It's a peaceful feeling on the water. The currents ripple gently against the hull of your boat, eliciting that intermittent slap of water on wood; the sun pours down its warmth uninterrupted and the soft wind sends cool blankets of refreshment over your skin. This is, perhaps, the closest that the living ever get to heaven. But, like David Byrne says in The Talking Heads song 'Heaven,' "Heaven, Heaven is a place, a place where nothing, nothing ever happens."
So, for all its peacefulness, the water can get a little boring after a time. To spice things up, we add a little speed and a little danger. We add a towable tube to the picture. What makes a towable tube so enjoyable is its unique ability to maximize the potential for fun created by the movement of the boat in front of it. These tubes attach to their leading boats by a line, usually nylon rope.
The tubes themselves are made of reinforced nylon and polyester materials that can withstand unexpected impacts against debris in the water, as well as the clambering and scratching of joyfully terrified passengers. Most towable tubes also include an electric pump, so you won't spend half the day on the shores, turning blue in the face as you try to inflate it manually.
When the driver of your leading boat takes you on a fast and tortuous journey across the water, your tube will repeatedly cross the wake like a ramp, and its light frame and soft materials will send you aloft in thrilling jumps. The best among our tubes will have a tapered design in the front, as well, which helps prevent a phenomenon called submarining, where the front of your tube dips under the water and creates a heavy drag on the leading boat, while possibly throwing you from your seat.
If you're not into the thrilling jumps and flights you can easily achieve when crossing the wake of your leading boat, you can always tow behind a boat moving much more slowly, or just set the kids out on the tube so you'll have the nicer boat to yourself.
Fit For A King, And His Queen, And Their Kids
If you were paying attention to the above explanation, you'll know now that a towable tubes flight potential–the degree to which you're liable to find exhilaration on it–depends a lot on its weight. Lighter tubes will get more out of the wakes they cross.
Like a good snow shoe, however, if your tube is wide enough, it can distribute more weight across its surface and provide you with just as much fun, even if it's carrying an extra passenger or two. Conversely, if you overload a towable tube, cramming six passengers where there's really only space for four, the extra weight will slow down and render your tube ineffective as well as dangerous.
The first thing to look at, then, when evaluating these towable tubes against one another, is their capacity. If you're a bachelor, or a married couple who is so dead-set against having children that you've both been spayed and neutered respectively, you can get away with a smaller tube.
The procreators among us, on the other hand, should err on the side of a larger tube. You can always recruit a nearby swimmer or a passenger on a passing boat to join you and even out the load, should you need. It's a great way to make friends on the water.
Some of these tube are better deigned for outrageous performance than others. If you know you want to cut wakes and fly through the air, you ought to look for the most dynamic design out there. If you're more interested in towing along like you've been born aloft on a lazy river, the more traditional tube shapes and loungers are your best bet.
Then, there's the look of the tube to consider. It's a minor consideration for most, but if your image is one of elegance, the towable tubes designed to suit the tastes of a 12-year-old boy fighting his way through puberty probably won't appeal to you.
An Innovative Lazy River
While it may not have caught on in any truly significant way until the 1940s, tubing existed at least as early as the invention of the automobile inner tube. Those inner tubes were the first devices employed by overheated swimmers to wistfully drift along the water.
Rafts of various kinds existed before the inner tube came along, some of which floated on their own, while others hooked up to a leading boat and were towed. But it's the inner tube that water-goers began to associate with a certain level of luxury and relaxation.
That's because of a sort of floating party that took place in July of 1941, when the owner of a nightclub in Wisconsin made a meal of the river that abutted the property of his club. He ingeniously gave inner tubes to about 200 people at his club and set them adrift, drinks in hand, about 45 minutes downriver, where he set up a shuttle to curry them back to the club.
The loop was a massive success, and entrepreneurs mimicked it wherever possible. The popularity of this kind of tubing led boaters to experiment with tubes attached to their vessels with lines of rope, marrying the luxury of tubing with the thrill of water skiing.