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Tubing (recreation)

File:Tubing on Pleasant Lake MN.jpg
Towed tubing on a lake. Riders can often become airborne while passing over waves or wake from the motor boat or personal watercraft.

Tubing (also known as inner tubing, "bumper tubing" or even toobing) is a recreational activity where an individual rides on top of an inner tube, either on water, snow, or through the air. The tubes themselves are also known as "donuts" or "biscuits" due to their shape.



File:Tubers on Esopus Creek 2011.jpg
Free-floating tubers on Esopus Creek in the Catskill Mountains of New York

Tubing on water generally consists of two forms: towed and free-floating, also known as river tubing. According to Time Magazine, tubing was purportedly invented in Thailand by Princess Chumbhot of Nagar Svarga sometime in the middle of the 20th century.[1]

Towed tubing usually takes place on a large body of water such as a lake or river. One or more tube riders (often called "tubers") tether their tubes to a powered watercraft such as a motor boat or a personal watercraft. The riders are then towed through the water by the watercraft.

In free-floating tubing, the tube riders are untethered and often conveyed by the current of a waterway. Tubers paddle with their hands and often used webbed gloves to steer. Tubes can be outfitted with tube covers or 'skins'. These covers are fabric, and cover the bottom of the tube, the sides, and have a skirt that covers the inner diameter, while leaving room for the tuber to sit. Covers can be altered with pockets, can holders and have handles for the tuber to hold on to. It is strongly discouraged to tie anything to the tube or use ropes of any kind as a tuber can get bound or wrapped in them and potentially drown. The Esopus Creek in the Catskill Mountains, New York is a common place for tubing, starting in Phoenicia and proceeding eastward. As in all watersports tubers should wear appropriate safety gear such as life vests, protective water shoes and helmets. Whitewater tubing can be fun and exhilarating, the size of the tube allows a tuber to ride the river in an unencumbered manner not found in rafting or kayaking. Tubers can employ the use of such items as dry boxes and mesh bags to carry small personal items and pack out trash, cans and bottles from their trip.

Popular riverside tube rentals normally warn against glass due to riverside dangers.[2] Some law enforcement offices have prohibited kegs which were popularly chilled in metal tubs harnessed within larger tubes.[3]

Major water parks often have specially designed courses for tubing called lazy rivers. These may consist of a circular, artificial river on which riders are conveyed or a linear course such as a water slide.

See also: Swim ring


File:A family snow tubing at Keystone Resort in Colorado.JPG
The operator looks to ensure the people below clear the run safely before launching this family. On the left is the magic carpet used to deliver the tubers back up the run from the bottom.

Snow tubing is rumored to have begun as far back as the 1820s in the Alpine Mountains. Tubing on snow is a wintertime activity that is similar to sledding. This kind of tubing is almost always performed on a hill or slope, using gravity to propel the rider to the bottom of the grade. The rider often returns to the top of the slope with the tube to repeat the process. The low amount of friction between most tubes and snow allows tubers to reach considerable speeds while riding, especially on steep slopes. Because of the circular shape of snow tubes, controlling the course and speed of a tube while riding on snow is extremely difficult. While a sled rider can drag their arms on the snow to brake or steer to a degree, attempting this on a tube will often cause the tube to spin. This lack of control has led to injuries, some serious, when riders have struck obstacles such as trees while tubing on snow.

Some ski resorts offer courses devoted solely to tubing.[4][5][6] Such courses often have slopes or barriers on the periphery to guide the tubes along a safe course. Motorized pulley towlines are often used to tow riders and their tube back to the top of the course after riding to the bottom. Steamboat Springs, Colorado ski mountain offers night snow tubing in ski season. Another example is the Frisco Adventure Park in the Town of Frisco, Colorado.

It is also possible to tow a tube through the snow behind a snowmobile. This is similar to towed tubing on water, only the watercraft is replaced by a snowmobile and the water with snow-covered ground.

Kite tubing

A variant of towed tubing dubbed "kite tubing" has begun to emerge.

When tubes being towed on water reach high speeds, they may take flight. This is because the body of the tube acts as an airfoil and creates lift. In this way, the tube becomes a kite. A tube's ability to achieve and maintain flight depends on a number of factors including the speed at which the tube is traveling, the shape and size of the tube, the weight of the rider, and how the tube itself is oriented. As most tubes are not designed for flight, the rider often has little or no control over a tube after it takes to the air. This can lead to a violent crash as the rider, with or without the tube, falls back to the surface of the water.

To address the poor flight characteristics of most tubes and to target thrill seekers, tubes specially designed for kite tubing have been introduced. These tubes may feature channels to allow air to flow through the tube's body, a transparent "window" for the rider to signal the boat operator, as well as more streamlined, aerodynamic designs.

As of July 2006, 39 injuries and two deaths from kite tubing have been reported. Injuries have included a broken neck, punctured lung, cracked ribs, a concussion and injuries to the chest, back and face. Some accidents have been linked to gusts of wind that unexpectedly altered the flight characteristics and ejected the riders.

In cooperation with the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), Sportsstuff Inc.[7] voluntarily withdrew the Wego Kite Tube from the market on July 13, 2006.[8]

Related to kite tubing is the kited inflated wing, a stiffened, flexible wing or gas-inflated bladder wing, where a control bar is affixed for the kited person to direct the inflated wing so the dangerous lock-out does not occur. The kited person can have a quick disconnect to release from a towing boat or car if a dangerous angle of tow begin.[9][10][11]

Summer tubing

Summer tubing is the summer variant of snow tubing. Hard bottom tubes slide down artificial slopes, usually made of special plastic. They can be installed on mountains by ski resorts or you can find them also in amusement parks.[12]In Europe produced by Neveplast and TubingsystemP

File:Summer tubing of Neveplast.JPG
Neveplast summer tubing


Tubing can require varying pieces and kinds of equipment depending on the variety of tubing one wishes to engage in.

The one common piece of equipment across all forms of tubing is the tube itself. While tubes vary in construction, all share the general characteristics of being:


Tubes for use as towables on water are generally not true inner tubes but rather specially designed tubes for the purpose of recreation. These tubes are often fairly durable and come in either donut or disk shapes. A sleeve of synthetic fabric often covers the tube to prevent it from becoming elongated during towing. Such sleeves commonly have handles for the rider to grasp and an anchoring point for the tow line to be attached at.

Towing a tube or tubes also requires a powered watercraft such a motorboat or personal watercraft as well as rope to tether the tubes to such craft.

Tubes used for free-floating tubing have traditionally been true inner tubes, but commercially sold tubes for the same purpose are becoming common place. These tubes are almost always donut-shaped to allow the rider to sit comfortably on their back across the top of the tube with buttocks in the center. This kind of tube rarely has handles or a sleeve and would perform poorly as a towable. Another type of water tube has a wooden panel inserted across the hole in the middle of the tube to prevent rocks in the river popping up into the tube and injuring the rider in shallow water areas.

Tubing using traditional inner tubes is a popular past time on the Nam river in Vang Vieng, Laos. Backpackers flock to this town to experience this.


Tubes used for riding on snow are sometimes specially designed tubes with dimpled centers rather than a "donut" hole. This prevents the rider and the tube itself from dragging on the snow. Snow tubes may be designed to have handles.


Tubing is not without its dangers, with twenty-two water-tubing deaths in 2011 in Laos.[13][14] Deaths from snow tubing have occurred in 2007, 2008, and 2011 from people colliding with trees. [15] [16] In 2015 a snow-tube rider fatally collided with a light pole.[17]



  • Beer Raft – Is a raft or a specially designed inflatable cooler the purpose of which is to hold ice, drinks, food and most importantly adult beverages. Also commonly called “Beertanic”
  • Kubing - The act of tubing down a river alongside a beer keg located inside of another inner tube.
  • Biscuit – A nickname used to describe the shape of a tube that resembles a disc.
  • Donut – A nickname used to describe the shape of a tube with a hole in the middle.
  • Drop In Point – Is the location at which a float begins and tubers transition from land into water.
  • Float – Is an event in which a group gathers for the sole purpose of making their way down a river on tubes for enjoyment.
  • Flotilla – Refers to a group of two or more tubes floating down a river while sharing supplies and company. Often the tubes will be joined together with rope.
  • Exit Point – Is the location at the end of the float where tubers exit the river.
  • Island – Is larger than a tube, but is not a raft. An island can fit four or more people, but still maintains a circular shape and has poor maneuverability.
  • Point of Interest – A location that is interesting or useful. It can be a place to rendezvous on the river, a naturally occurring attraction, or a dangerous point that one should be aware of.
  • Portage – Is a point along the float in which tubers have to exit with their tubes and walk because of low water or dangerous water obstacles.
  • Pump – Is either a manual or an electric device used to inflate a tube or raft.
  • Raft – Is a boat shaped inflatable that can hold 1 or more tubers plus supplies. Rafts often come with oars, but the oars are not necessary for tubing.
  • Tube – Is the vehicle used to stay afloat while tubing, often inflatable.
  • Tubers – People who takes part in tubing.
  • Tubing – The act of floating down a river for fun.
  • Water Shoes – Shoes used to protect the feet when walking in water and over rocks. Often Tevas, Keens or Crocs are used.

See also


  1. ^ "Thailand: Holder of the Kingdom, Strength of the Land", Time Magazine, May 27, 1966, accessed November 23, 2010.
  2. ^ "Apple River Tubing". Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  3. ^ Michigan Canoe Rental, Chippewa River Outfitters, canoeing, rafting kayaking canoe michigan waterways , kayaking, tubing
  4. ^ [1][dead link]
  5. ^ "Snow Tubing in West Virginia (WV)". Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "SportsStuff - Towables, Lounge & Leisure, Waterpark and Snow Sports Inflatable Innovation". Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  8. ^
  9. ^ Inflated wing patent, 1938
  10. ^ Inflatable wing, 1975
  11. ^ Inflated wing, 1986
  12. ^ "Tubingbaan in Friese Dokkum". newsflash swedice (year 4) ( swedice. March 2013. Retrieved 4 April 2015. 
  13. ^ Alicia Wood and Jonathan Swan (2008). "Sydneysider dies leaping into river while 'tubing' in Laos". Retrieved 2012-01-26. 
  14. ^ Megan Levy (2008). "Melbourne student dies in second tubing tragedy". Retrieved 2012-01-26. 
  15. ^ "Snow Tubing Dangers Increasing". Chalat Hatten Koupal & Banker PC. Retrieved 2015-02-01. 
  16. ^ "Snow tubing: dangerous thrill". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved 2015-02-01. 
  17. ^ "Long Island teen, a beloved leader among peers, dies in snow tubing accident after striking light pole". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2015-02-01. 
  18. ^ Young, Andrew (2010). "Tubing Terminology". Retrieved 2011-04-03. 

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