If you have a wakeboard tower set up in your boat, in addition to wakeboarding, you’ve likely tried – or thought about trying – pulling a skier or an inflatable tube off of the tower.
Kids sometimes rave about how much better the ride is off the tower than off the boat’s tow eye 2.5 feet above the waterline. The higher pulling point from a 7-foot tower can get the tube to fly and skim the water.
However, while some wakeboard towers advertise being “strong enough for pulling a tube”, many come with a prominent warning about not using the tower for tubing.
A wakeboard tower is obviously designed for wakeboarding. But Is it safe to also use it for tubing? What about skiing?
See also: How to pull a wakeboarder
Pulling a tube from a tower
Pulling a tube off a tower isn’t recommended because of weight and drag. A tube can create a lot of drag, especially when it flips around and “submarines”.
A tube with several people will also put a lot of stress on your tower, potentially leading to either the tower snapping or the boat tipping.
When towing a 3-person tube from the tower, the tube may flip over and submarine during a power turn, even at slow speed, which can pull your boat over on its side.
When the tube flies off the water, the people inside get ejected and the tube lands upside down. Depending on the shape of the tube, this can turn the tube into a water anchor due to suction, placing a huge amount of force on the tower it’s attached to.
Can pulling a tube break your wakeboard tower?
Towers have 4 mounting points which are reinforced at installation, giving them relatively high stress tolerance.
However, the stress caused by an anchored tube – potentially thousands of pounds of force – can be greater than the tolerance of your tower (e.g. a Monster M1).
A tube will load with water when capsized and create a lot of drag, enough to rip the tower off if the driver keeps going.
Another possible outcome when pulling a tube off a tower (even with just one person in the tube) is for the top of the tower to snap in half. This again typically happens after the tube hits a bump and lands upside down.
Simple towers like Bayliner, Monster, and aftermarket towers can easily snap under the huge load created by a submerged tube. A 72″ tube anchoring in the water at a relatively low speed will easily bent a 2″ diameter pylon.
It’s also not uncommon to hear about a factory Malibu tower whose pivot point gets torn from the welds when tubing. This kind of accident is obviously not covered by the warranty since the tower has a clear warning discouraging use for tubing.
Towers are typically engineered for the forces that come from a wakeboarder, not a tube. Most towers are made of aluminum which is not as strong as stainless or even regular steel.
The consequences of a tower being ripped off can be hull damage, or even more dramatic if the tower gets ripped off and hurts passengers inside the boat. The cost may range from a $2000 tower, to a $20.000 repair bill, all the way to a $2M life insurance policy.
Tubing compared vs wakeboarding from a tower
It’s frequently argued that a wakeboarder will put at least as much stress on the wakeboarding tower as a tube when leaning hard outside the wake. A wakeboarder cutting hard at near 25 mph will easily drag a bowrider off plane.
Meanwhile, a tube will be skimming across the water surface a lot of the time, causing minimal stress on the tower and the boat.
However, when the wakeboarder falls or lets go with the rope, the tension disappears completely. A tube, on the other, will always remain attached to the tower, including after flipping over and submarining.
As a result, the tower will have a lot more leverage on the boat.
Wakeboarders also tend to stay behind the boat to play in the wake, whereas tubes will swing wildly at speed, creating more stress. Inflatables will apply greater multi directional forces a towers pivot point than a wakeboarder.
Multi-rider tubes, e.g. monster tubes that can hold four people, also put much more pressure on the tower.
How to pull a tube safely
Generally, you should use the transom hook, or any area on the back of your boat, in place of the wakeboard tower for pulling a tube.
A hook on the transom will generally be much better reinforced than the tower mount points. You will also notice you have a lot more control on the tube when driving the boat.
A safe alternative is if you have a ski pylon on your sports boat. These are generally around 2′ high and are built for tubing and skiing.
If you insist on pulling a tube off your wakeboard tower, try to follow these common sense tips:
- Keep your accelerations and speed low
- Try to keep the tube behind the boat – e.g. by avoiding tight turns
- Only have one lightweight rider in the tube
- Stay clear of big waves
In particular, if pulling a tube with kids from your wakeboard tower, the tube will easily go airborne, bounce the kids high in the air, and flip over. Again, make sure you drive slow with mellow turns.
Skiing off a wakeboard tower
While most boaters will use a ski pylon for water skiing, in certain situations you may be tempted to ski off your wakeboarding tower.
For example, in boats with closed bow and passengers sitting in the rear, pulling a skier off the tower is the only practical option.
Can you ski off a wakeboarding tower? Wakeboard towers are designed for wake tricks but are not ideal for skiing because of the rope angle. For skiing, a horizontal rope around arm height works best, as it doesn’t involved like wakeboarding.
Most skiers prefer a tow point about 3 feet off the water vs 8 feet with a wakeboard tower. With a tower, your hands are too high in turns instead of at waist level. The higher angling rope also tends to launch you over the wake.
Ski boats typically come with a relatively short pylon for skiing, positioned in the middle of the boat, helping the boat remain stable even when the skier goes out to the side creating a strong sideways pull.
See also: Can you water ski behind any boat?
Skiing off a tower creates rope slack
When skiing off a wakeboard tower, the rope is up high, so cutting hard way off the side will result in significant rope slack, which is not a desirable thing. Skiing off the ski eye or a ski pylon is much easier for a proficient skier.
Rope slack also happens on a wakeboard, however wakeboard speed is generally around 20mph, vs 30-34 mph for skiers. Also, skiers lay down in turns a lot more than wakeboarders, making rope slack even more a problem.
Learning to ski from a wakeboard tower
That said, using a wakeboard tower can be a good option for water ski beginners on 2 skis. The tower’s height result in a slight upward pull in the rope which helps learners get up and out of the water.
Some schools use a 6-foot pylon in place of a wakeboard tower for learning to get up on a slalom ski.
See also: Is water skiing or wakeboarding harder?
Barefoot skiing from a wakeboard tower
Another popular use of wakeboard towers for skiing is barefooting. Many barefooters favor the tower when given the option, as the slight upward pull helps them get up and stay on top of the water.
Barefooters also don’t normally get way off to the side, and do not lean in turns, so a higher attachment point like on a wakeboard tower only has advantages.
To recap, tubing or skiing from a wakeboard tower is certainly possible, but it comes with drawbacks and even hazards.
Tubing can create excessive drag and pressure on a wakeboard tower, potentially leading to the tower being ripped off the hull and snapping in two – possibly injuring people. Many tower manufacturers warn against tubing.
Skiing off a wakeboard tower can be generally be done safely but isn’t ideal for proficient skiers due to rope angle and rope slack in turns. Nevertheless, a tower can help beginners get up at first, and also works well for barefoot skiing.
Saturday 25th of February 2023
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