Tubing is a fun, fast paced boating activity that can be enjoyed by anyone. One way to change it up, and keep it exciting is to pull your tube behind a jet ski! Wait?! Can a jet ski actually pull a tube?
A Jet ski with a minimum of 110 horsepower is strong enough to pull a passenger weighing up to 200 pounds. (91 Kg) Towing with a less powerful jet ski can strain and damage the engine.
There are other limitations as well, which we will look more into in this article.
Picking the Right Jet Ski for Tubing
So, what is the right kind of jet ski for pulling a tube? Well, as we mentioned above, the jet ski has to be powerful enough to handle the stress of extra weight.
If you are unsure about what the engine of a certain model is capable of, check on the manufacturer’s website or with a local dealer. You will be able to find any information you need at either of these sources.
A powerful engine is important, but it takes more than just horsepower for tubing to be a safe and legal activity. In order to use a jet ski for towing of any variety, there must be enough seats for the driver, the spotter, and the people being towed.
Almost all states require that if you are using a jet ski for tubing, there must be a second person on the jet ski watching those being pulled at all times. This person is referred to as a “spotter.”
There are some places, like the state of Texas, which allow you to tow without a spotter only if you equip rear-view mirrors which are at least 4 inches tall and 4 inches wide.
Back to the seating capacity rules.
The total number of persons on the jet ski and being towed must never exceed the seating capacity of the jet ski. This rule, combined with the required spotter rule, means that for the most part, a jet ski must be able to seat a minimum of 3 persons in order to be used for tubing. 1 driver, 1 spotter, and 1 person on the tube.
The exception to this would be if someone had a jet ski with a seating capacity of 2, had installed rear-view mirrors which are large enough, and was in a place where a spotter is not required with the large mirrors. Then there could be one driver and one rider on a tube.
But, since tubing is usually more fun with multiple people on the tube, it is a good idea to shoot for a jet ski which has a seating capacity of 4. That way there can be 1 driver, 1 spotter, and 2 people riding on the tube at any time.
And of course, everyone who is on the jet ski or being pulled behind it must be wearing a life preserver the whole time that they are on the water.
Testing the Limit: How Much Weight Should You Really Pull on a Tube?
So, let’s say that you have the strongest, fastest 4-seater jet ski that you could find. You have a spotter ready to watch vigilantly and you have two adults who want to see what kind of towing skills you have. Should you indulge them?
When engaging in any sort of water sport, safety and caution should come before wild fun. A friend told me a story about her uncle who found himself in a situation similar to the one above once.
Her uncle used to have a jet ski and would bring it out to all of the family reunions that they have at the lake every year. There are a lot of little kids in the family, so tubing is a popular activity every year.
One year, all of the uncles got an idea that they thought would be fun. They would have one of them drive the jet ski while the other two rode on the tube behind it. The two riding the tube were over 200 pounds each, so they added some significant weight.
They knew that the jet ski could pull them without breaking through, so they gave it a shot.
At first, everything seemed to be fine. The jet ski was not straining too hard and the rope was doing just fine. Then the driver decided to do what is known as a whip. When the tube is whipped, it moves from one side of the jet ski to the other very quickly.
Jet skis at the very most will weigh a little over 1000 pounds. The jet ski in this story was probably closer to 800 pounds. So, when around half the weight of the jet ski suddenly yanked it in one direction from behind, the driver was actually thrown right off of the vehicle.
So always ask yourself, just because you can, should you? A jet ski can pull a lot of weight, but it is important to remember that the jet ski is not terribly large itself, so the weight that it pulls can have a lot of influence on it. It might be a better idea to stick to pulling kids while using a jet ski.
Is a Jet Ski Better Than a Boat for Tubing?
So the big question is, why would you use a jet ski to pull a tube instead of a boat? There are a lot of reasons that a jet ski could be considered a better choice.
The easiest reason to cite for choosing a jet ski over a boat would be price.
Some people might believe that jet skis are pricey themselves. This is fair. You will likely not be able to find a brand new one for under $5,000. However, the price for a new boat easily soars far above that $5,000.
There are many different types of boat, and the price for a brand new one will range anywhere from $10,000 to $100,000 and above depending on what kind you are looking at. When you consider the most expensive jet ski is under $20,000 brand new, the price difference is an obvious incentive.
Even when it comes to used models, boat prices are still very high. You need to go back to models from the 90s and even 80s to start to see significant price reductions, whereas a jet ski that is 5 years old will be much cheaper than the same model of the current year.
Another advantage of using a jet ski over a boat is the size. Most jet skis are under 12 feet long. To be considered a jet ski, a watercraft actually has to be under 13 feet long according to the United States Coast Guard. So you know the biggest they will be is 13 feet.
Boats come in many different sizes, but the ones used for towing will generally be larger than jet skis.
The smaller size of jet skis means that they are much easier to transport and to store. Many people won’t have room to store a large boat at home, which means they have to pay to keep in in storage or at a marina. Even if there is room, transporting it can be difficult.
To transport a boat or jet ski, you need to have an appropriate trailer and vehicle with which to tow it. Since jet skis weigh significantly less than boats, there will be no need to worry about whether you have enough power to tow as even many sedans can tow up to 1,000 pounds.
When it comes to being on the water, jet skis are more versatile in some ways. Their smaller size means that they have better maneuverability and that they can safely operate in areas where a larger boat might not safely fit.
The fact that jet skis use an internal jet propulsion system means that they can go right up to the shore in water only a couple of feet deep and not worry about being damaged. This makes for easy passenger and rider exchanges.
Some boats also use internal propulsion instead of an external propeller, but even though they can get closer to the shore it is still more difficult to climb into one that it is to hop on a jet ski.
What Makes an Area Good for Jet ski Tubing?
After you have made sure that your jet ski is adequate for pulling a tube, the next step is figuring out where to go. Tubing can be done in lakes, rivers, and the ocean. Just make sure the location is safe.
When looking for a space to pull a tube, you should make sure that it is big enough to maneuver around in. One advantage of using a jet ski as opposed to a boat is that you will not need as much space. Still, it is important that you are far enough away from any potential hazards so as to not put the riders in danger.
Some natural hazards include sand bars, rocks, logs, trees, and the shore. With so many things that could cause harm, it is important to not pull a tube in an area that you are unfamiliar with. Make sure you know that the water is deep enough wherever you decided to go tubing.
There are some non-natural hazards that you need to be aware of as well. Buoys are something you may need to watch out for, but the biggest is other boats.
Another job that the spotter has is to let other boats know when there is a person in the water. Anytime a person falls off of the tube, the spotter should raise their arm as a sign to other boats to not approach the area. Ideally, the spotter will have an orange flag to hold up for extra visibility.
Is There Special Equipment Used for Jet Ski Tubing?
How do you know which rope to use for pulling a tube? You might think that you can go down to your nearest hardware store and buy a length of any kind of rope, but that won’t quite cut it.
There are many characteristics that make a rope good for pulling tubes. You need to make sure the rope is strong enough. Many ropes will have a break strength rating that you can check.
If you decide to buy a used rope, make sure you check it very carefully for fraying or overstretching. If a rope has a weak spot, it can break on it and potentially cause a lot of problems during a tubing session.
Another thing you want in a rope is bright colors. It can be hard to see a thin length of rope in the water depending on the conditions. Some lakes have beautiful blue hues, but others are closer to brown. A bright colored rope will help you spot and keep track of it no matter what the water color or conditions are.
Something else that helps keep track of the rope is if it floats. Ropes are not extremely buoyant on their own, but many ropes come with a floating device attached to the rope to keep it above the water.
It is important to keep the rope out from under the jet ski so that it does not get caught up in the jet propulsion unit. If it gets caught up in there, the day of fun will be over very quickly. Controlling rope’s slack is another job that a spotter can do.
If you need a recommendation for a good tow rope, the AIRHEAD 4 Rider Tube Rope is a solid choice. Some of its features are:
- Rated at 4,150 pounds tensile strength
- 6-inch loop spliced at each end
- Engineered to pull 3 and 4 rider tubes
- Rope Keeper is included
If that sounds like something you are interested in, here is a link to purchase it on Amazon.
Where to Attach the Tow Rope on Your Jet Ski
When it comes to hooking the rope up to the jet ski, there are a couple of different options. Some jet skis have the option of attaching a ski pylon, which is a pole to attach the rope to have the rope higher above the surface of the water. They are more useful for skiing and wakeboarding, so we won’t worry about them in this article.
Most jet skis have a tow hook on the back underneath the seat. It is very easy to attach the rope to this hook. The advantages of using the built-in hook instead of a pylon are that you do not have to take time to install the pylon, and the built-in hook is capable of withstanding more weight.
When you attach the rope to the tube, make sure that you follow the instructions of how to hook it in. Also, make sure that you only use tubes that are made for tubing. You should not try to pull a regular inner tube.
How’s the Ride?
To answer the question directly: it’s a great ride. Using a jet ski for tubing instead of a boat does not take away from the experience in any way, and might add to it by being an overall simpler process.
Jet skis are capable of high speeds, so there is nothing lost in the small size. Riders will have a lot of fun for as long as a driver is willing to pull them around.