Best boat tubes and towables for boating thrills and spills

Serial boat owner Drew Maglio picks out 8 of the best boat tubes and towables that will add a shot of adrenaline to your days out on the water…

Few watersports are more fun for the participant, the boat driver and the spectators than tubing behind a sportsboat – especially when you launch them skywards off the boat’s wake! Aptly named because they are generally constructed of an inner PVC tube and an outer canvas covering, basic towable inner tubes have been around for decades, but in recent years there has been a proliferation of ever more extreme and entertaining designs and this guide is aimed at easing the paralyzing process of selecting the best boat tubes.

The two major brands of towable boat tubes are Airhead and O’Brien – the latter has been around for longer while the former has a greater selection and variety of product offerings. Airhead also tends to offer “sportier” options aimed at water-bound thrill-seekers.

In addition to Airhead and O’Brien, there are some offerings from WOW, Sea Doo, Jobe and others, but as I have no personal experience of them, I cannot recommend them just yet.

There are many defining features to look for in the best boat tubes, such as double-stitching and reinforcement around high load areas, quick connects for tow ropes, neoprene covered grab handles, scupper drains between the canvas and inflatable PVC tube, and the ability to inflate/deflate quickly.

Whichever model you go for, be sure to read the safety warnings and take care when towing – the pendulum effect of a long tow rope means that during turns the tube will end up travelling much faster than the boat.

8 of the best boat tubes and towables

best-boat-tubes-obrien-le-tube

O’Brien LeTube

The O’Brien LeTube is a basic inner tube that has been around for decades. Suitable for one person, the LeTube is inexpensive with a small footprint and is therefore a suitable entry-level boat tube option.

With its donut configuration, the LeTube is also suitable for boaters with small children, as riding inside the tube feels safer and more comfortable for novice riders who tend to be a bit apprehensive about falling off when bumping over the edge of a wake.

Pros:

Inexpensive
Suitable for beginners
Renowned durability/longevity
Quick connect tow system
Quick inflation/deflation system

Cons:

Only designed for one rider
More advanced riders will find this tube limited fun

RRP: $100 / £115

Buy it now on Amazon

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best-boat-tubes-obrien-Screamer

O’Brien Screamer

While still only suitable for single riders, the O’Brien Screamer — as its name would suggest — is a boat tube designed for more advanced, thrill-seeking riders.

Unlike the LeTube, the Screamer is specifically designed for riders who want to be whipped and bounced across a boat’s wake.

The flat top means riders can more comfortably lay on their belly, not only to brace for impact, but also to better control the tube by shifting their weight back and forth and side to side.

Pros:

Affordable
High-performance tube suitable for thrill-seekers
Padded grips
Quick connect tow system
Quick inflation/deflation system

Cons:

Only suitable for a single rider
Lacks versatility: designed for skillful riders
Some QC issues reported

RRP: $150 / £200

Buy it now on Amazon

best-boat-tubes-Super-Screamer

O’Brien Super Screamer

Best boat tube for overall performance

Much like the Screamer, but suitable for two riders instead of just one, the Super Screamer by O’Brien is a very versatile choice for boaters needing to tow a crew of more experienced and adventurous riders.

For a negligible price difference, I believe the Super Screamer to be a much better option as it will still be sporty enough for daring single riders.

Pros:

Best bang for the buck for a performance-oriented tube
Padded grips
Quick connect tow system
Quick inflation/deflation system
Able to carry two riders

Cons:

Some QC issues reported

RRP: $170 / £195

Buy it now on Amazon

best-boat-tubes-air-head-slice

Airhead Slice

Airhead’s version of a mid-level, all-purpose boat tube, the Slice is a versatile option that comes in various sizes to accommodate up to four simultaneous riders.

Compared to O’Brien boat tubes, Airhead offerings tend to be slightly less reliable, but typically offer more initial bang for your buck, as well as more options and variations to choose from.

The Slice is no exception, coming in marginally cheaper than the Super Screamer while offering the ability to carry an additional rider in its base configuration.

Pros:

Great value
Comes in different configurations and colors
Padded grips
Quick connect tow system
Quick inflation/deflation system

Cons:

Questionable reliability according to adverse reports from some users
Not a high-performance tube, so may underwhelm some experienced riders

RRP: $140-310 / £150-315 (depending on configuration)

Buy it now on Amazon

Airhead G-Force

Best boat tube for for versatility/value

One step up on Airhead’s performance spectrum from the Slice is the G-Force. Unlike the O’Brien Super Screamer , the G-Force comes in various sizes to accommodate the needs of different boaters.

Therefore, I would argue that the G-Force is just about the most versatile, performance-oriented boat tube on the market.

An additional differentiating feature on the G-Force is its integral bolsters, which help riders to stabilize themselves by restricting some lateral movement.

Pros:

Great value
Comes in different configurations and colors
Padded grips
Quick connect tow system
Quick inflation/deflation system
Integral bolsters help stabilize riders

Cons:

Questionable reliability according to adverse reports from some users

Buy it now on Amazon (US)

Buy it now on Amazon (UK)

best-boat-tubes-air-head-super-marble

Airhead Super Mable

The Airhead Super Mable is a good option for boat owners looking to tow young children or other apprehensive riders as well as more advanced tubers.

With the ability to carry up to three riders at once, the Super Mable is a good option for weekend party boats that are typically laden with several passengers.

While not as extreme as smaller, sportier variants, with a suitably experienced boat driver at the helm it can still deliver a surprisingly wild ride.

Pros:

Able to seat up to three riders
Suitable for novice riders
Affordable for such a large towable
Padded grips
Quick connect tow system
Features an integral back rest

Cons:

Takes up a lot of space on the boat once inflated
Will tend to bounce with only one lightweight rider
Needs a fairly powerful boat to get three people planing

RRP: $374 / £300

Buy it now on Amazon

Buy it now on eBay

Airhead Jumbo Dog Rider

For those looking to tow up to 5 riders at a more leisurely pace, the Jumbo Dog Rider from Airhead is a prime option and an affordable alternative to the ubiquitous banana boat tube with its fun hot dog aesthetic.

Unlike the other boat tubes on this list, the Jumbo Dog Rider is only designed for towing at moderate speeds rather than more extreme wake riding antics.

In most cases, long, slender tubes like the Rider are typically used in coastal areas with moderate surf — many times even straight off the beach.

The ride isn’t as exhilarating as it is with faster boat tubes but the pitching and rolling through gentle coastal swells is fun, especially its enough to unseat one or more of the riders.

Pros:

Able to seat up to five riders
Suitable for novice riders
Affordable for such a large towable
Padded grips
Quick connect tow system

Cons:

Not suitable for high-speed tubing
Experienced riders may find this tube boring

RRP: $325 / £525

Buy it now on Amazon

Sportsstuff Booster Ball

Best boat tube accessory

While not a tube, the Sportsstuff Booster Ball can and should be paired with any of the best boat tubes on this list to enhance tubing performance.

One of my major annoyances while tubing over the years is when the tow rope drags in the water, causing water to spray into your eyes.

Additionally, a lagging tow rope can create a sudden whipping effect, which can cause less experienced riders to capsize if they’re not expecting it.

Designed to stop this happening, the Booster Ball works by raising the tow rope above the water’s surface.

Pros:

Raises the tow rope out of the water, preventing annoying spray and whipping effects
Reduces sudden jolting motion when tow boat accelerates
Will smooth out ride, but also allow for more rider/driver control

Cons:

An additional expense
An additional failure point
Makes setting up and breaking down take longer

RRP: $101 / £115

Buy it now on Amazon

Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.

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