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The Tube

If you haven’t been in a marine pro shop lately, let me tell you: there is an insane amount of water toys to choose from. I think back to my youth, walking in a marina and seeing pairs of skis, slaloms, zip sleds and – as time went on – hydroslides (that was kneeboarding back then). Today, the water gods have blessed us all with wakeboards, wakeskates, wakesurf boards, kneeboards and tons of tubes. So I’m going to write about something I, and most likely you, never thought would be mentioned here in “Behind the Boat” – the tube. Also, I’m going to put some hot sauce on my Times New Roman and eat my words; there is an exception to a comment I’ve made previously in “Behind the Boat.” Be forewarned of the occasional tangent in this article. First of all, when I came up spending my summers on the lake, there were no tubes like there are today. Believe it or not, tubes were inner tubes from tractor tires and had this nice valve stem that would remind you it was not made to be drug at supersonic speed behind a mid 80s inboard. Your face would look like you were in a G-Force test module, and thank God we didn’t wear sunscreen back then because it would have made that rubber inner tube way too slippery. You didn’t have handles to hold on to – just a death grip on that inner tube. If and when you were separated from it, you’d skip across the water like a flat stone riffled by a pro. If by some odd chance you didn’t, the driver would make sure you did the next time. I’ve seen people in jump helmets launched off a tube in a wide-open sling from an old star and stripes Mastercraft, and I know friends who had blood in their urine from the beatings the water gave them. Then you have a pontoon boat towing a straight line … well, what’s not why I have such a negative attitude toward them or their drivers. That too is another story, but here’s my take on the tube. They have their place in the wide world of fun toys to be towed behind a boat. Kids enjoy being pulled, slung and whipped around on them and that is great. He/she who has the most fun wins in my book, but tubing is an interim thing. You don’t have to start a kid on a tube and I don’t think it’s even a good thing to do, because they don’t have to do anything but lie there and ride. That is an activity to do when all your skiing/boarding/surfing is done (or the water is so blown out, you can’t do anything else.) Kids who have the privilege to be out behind a boat and get to learn how to ski or wakeboard typically have a sense of accomplishment. It’s not easy – it is physical – and it is something to be proud of being able to do, especially if you’re learning to do it well. It shows in their self-confidence and their attitudes that they can do something everyone else can’t. Maybe they aren’t on the team at school, but maybe those team sport kids can’t all wakeboard. The sports behind the boat can really be an achievement for kids, and tubing doesn’t seem to offer that. I repeat: tubing has its place, and fun it may be, but encourage them to get someone who knows how to ski/wakeboard well and teach them. The physical nature, skill, balance and the pure thrill of riding across the water is something great. It is an accomplishment that can be built upon throughout their lives. So back to the word eating: I previously stated “pontoons have the slowest turning radius and can’t get back to kids in a safe amount of time in traffic.” As I’m putting the napkin around my neck let me say that this applies to one boat that I know of and that I still don’t think it’s a good idea to pull kids on busy days in main channel open water and, if you do, keep a close eye on them. (You really want to throw your prize possession out in traffic and hope they don’t get run over?) Add a little hot sauce to my words and here goes: there is a pontoon boat now that does have what it takes to safely turn on a dime. The Harris with XTR (extreme turning radius) package allows the center pontoon to be lowered and gives the deep V hull effect, which gives it the ability to carve the water like a sport boat. Num num num num num. Oh and by the way, most wakeboard towers are not built to withstand the stress of tubing. Hook it at low pulling point. See you on the water, Sawyer