Need the right jet ski for some tubing or water skiing fun? We recommend the best models on the market that have towing firmly in mind.
Can a Jet Ski Pull a Tube Well?
Absolutely, a jet ski can pull a tube. However, as we will see in this article, some factors need to be taken into consideration. It’s not merely a question of having at least 110 horsepower (almost all jet skis on the market have the requisite horsepower to pull a towable tube).
In short, if you have a 3 or 4 seater jet ski and it has at least 110 horsepower, you have a personal watercraft suited for towing a tube – horsepower is the most significant variable in how much weight you can tow behind a jet ski.
However, it’s worth familiarizing yourself with the regulations, equipment, and guidelines around jet ski tubing.
Benefits of Jet Ski Tube Towing
You’d think that bigger watercraft would always be better at towing tubes but that’s not always right. There are instances where towing a tube behind a jet ski has its advantages.
1. It can run in shallow water.
Being jet-driven, a jet ski has no exposed propeller underneath. That means they’re great for shallow water. That means much less to worry about! Simply pull up to the beach when the fun is over.
2. They’re more agile.
Jet skis might not have the power of larger boats but they sure beat them for agility. They can turn more quickly and precisely which makes sitting on a tube behind one even more fun.
3. They’re cheaper than a boat.
Now, I’m not saying jet skis are cheap. But, compared to boats they’re certainly more affordable. Jet skis like the Sea Doo Spark can be picked up pre-owned for little more than $5000 these days.
4. They’re easier to launch.
Jet skis are much quicker and easier to launch than a boat. They can be quickly launched on and off the trailer which is much less stressful than launching a boat.
What are the regulations regarding towing a person with jet skis?
In most countries such as the US, Canada, and Australia, when using a personal watercraft for tubing behind, safety regulations must be respected. They are more than tips or good advice. They are a matter of law, and not adhering to them would be grounds for incurring a fine, or worse in case of an accident.
When you pull a person behind a jet ski, you are subjected to the same rules and regulations that all watercraft are subjected to.
The person being towed, and the people on the craft must wear life jackets
Life jackets must be Coast Guard approved, in serviceable condition, and they must be the appropriate size for their intended user. In the US, life jackets sold prior to 2014 come with labels identifying them by ‘Type’, which is indicated with Roman numerals. This sort of classification system has been abandoned in favor of a simpler ‘throwable’ or ‘wearable’ classification.
There must be an observer (or ‘spotter’) on the craft in addition to the driver
The only exception to this law we have found regards the State of Texas, which does allow for the PWC operator also to act as the spotter provided the craft is equipped with rearview mirrors. And there are requirements as to the size the mirrors must be in order to qualify for the exception.
All states require the spotter to observe the same legal alcohol limit as that imposed on the craft’s operator. Some states have additional requirements for the spotter, and it is better to check on those beforehand.
There must be available seating capacity for the person being towed
Since the overwhelming majority of jet skis on the market are 3 seaters, this means there is a seat for the driver or operator, one for the observer, and one for the person who will eventually ride on the towable tube.
If you would like to tow more than one person, make sure you have the seating capacity to accommodate the extra person. In most states, that means you must have a jet ski with a seating capacity of four.
The reason for this is that in case there is an accident and the person tubing behind a jet ski sustains an injury, there would be room on the jet ski to get the person back to safety.
The Best Jet Ski for Tubing
Since the jet ski must be able to seat at least the driver, the observer, and the person being pulled, the best jet ski for tubing must have a minimum seating capacity of 3. This is the standard seating capacity of jet skis. Small and larger models have appeared on the market, but due to them not selling as well as the traditional 3-seater, they are relatively rare.
When it comes to horsepower, virtually all 3-seater jet skis have the requisite amount for pulling tubes. Some models, such as the Kawasaki STX 160, which boasts a horsepower of 160, or the Sea Doo Wake, with a horsepower of 170, go above and beyond your expectations.
Smaller jet ski models, such as the Sea Doo Spark 3 up with a horsepower of 90, would really only be effective at towing kids. For larger riders, aim for a jet ski with a minimum horsepower of 110, which should be covered by most mid-sized jet skis on the market.
Here’s a quick video of the Sea Doo Spark 3 Up in action so you can get a feel for what the baseline 90 horsepower offers:
The Sea Doo Wake
Designed specifically with jet ski tubing in mind, the Sea Doo Wake represents one of the more sophisticated jet ski options on the high-end of the market. It’s currently the best jet ski for water skiing that we’re aware of too.
Robust and lightweight
This PWC is made from second-generation material to more effectively reduce the weight of the craft and deliver peak performance. Color-in molding provides additional scratch-resistance, far more effective than traditional fiberglass.
Redesigned swim platform
The swim platform has been redesigned to be flatter and offer more stability and comfort. It makes it easier to board the jet ski and provides space for lounging. Furthermore, the rear seat is removable should you want even more space.
Premium audio system
The Sea Doo Wake comes equipped with a Bluetooth integrated waterproof audio system that delivers 100 watts of performance. External playback controls allow you to ensure a fun ride with a good soundtrack as well.
True to its design intent, the Sea Doo Wake comes with several features to enhance or facilitate the tubing experience.
- Ski mode – Preprogrammed acceleration and speed profiles give you a repeated and precise, controlled tubing experience. The personal watercraft also has 2 other modes, Sport and ECO.
- Retractable LinQ ski pylon – Using a retractable pylon has the benefit of keeping the tow rope out of the water, which reduces drag and enhances not only the fun of tubing but also the safety. Additionally, the retractable pylon has a secure grip handle for the spotter and a strap for storing the tow rope when not in use.
- Boarding ladder – The rear of the craft is equipped with a one-step boarding ladder to allow for easing boarding when the tuber is reading to come out of the water.
This popular line of 20 jet ski models, offers you a choice of options starting at $7,000 and going up to the larger, more sophisticated model priced at $17,700.
Every Yamaha WaveRunner has a seating capacity of at least 3, but if you plan on seating 3 adults, know that it will be quite a cramped ride.
The EX Sport model, starting at $7,000, was designed specifically with towing in mind.
- Increased storage space
- Retractable boarding step
- Dual rearview mirrors
- Tow Hook
Bear in mind that the EX Sport only has a horsepower of 100, which is suitable for towing, though it may not be enough to give a large adult being towed an especially fast tubing experience.
Safety Precautions to Observe When Jet Ski Tubing
Jet ski tubing is a fun water activity that can be enjoyed by people of all ages. And provided you observe common-sense safety measures, it is exciting, fun, and safe.
In addition to the laws regulating tubing – such as always have an observer (in some jurisdictions, a large rearview mirror is enough), always wear a life jacket, and tow with a craft that has the seating capacity to accommodate the person being towed – there are a few guidelines you can follow to lower the risk of an accident.
Check your equipment before setting out
This includes the town line, the tube, and the life jackets. Make sure the jet ski is in good working condition and that there is plenty of fuel.
Inspect the water for debris, flotsam, sandbars, and the like.
Before dropping the tube behind and letting a passenger off to go tubing, make a run over the water you will cover. Look for any potential natural or unnatural obstacles and look for any great disparities in the water’s depth that may hinder performance.
Be mindful of the wake you create, especially when turning.
Making a relatively sharp turn and sending the person you’re towing into the wave of your wake can be a lot of fun for the person being towed. At certain speeds and if navigated correctly, this could send the tube airborne or, at the very least, shake it up a bit.
The observer (or spotter) will be able to let you know if the person tubing is enjoying smacking into the wake or not. Be mindful and respect their wishes. Riding into the wake is where the chance of accident or injury is at its highest. One possible outcome, especially for tubers lying flat on their stomach, is to cause excessive strain on the back. If the person being towed has a history of back pain, you may want to consider avoiding sharp turns at high speeds.
Taking your jet ski out on the water is too much fun not to share the experience. Towing someone on an inflatable tube is an excellent way to get more people involved. It’s fun, and when respecting the proper procedures and regulations, it’s safe for adults and kids alike. If you are intersted in ocean sports, you should check out my article on the best jet ski for surfing.