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Tubing with a Jet Ski: Is It Possible?

You’re ready to take your personal watercraft (PWC) experience to a new level, you’re ready to for pull sports!

One question that you may have is if your PWC will be powerful enough to do pull-sports? It’s a great question with some interesting answers. To answer it simply, yes!

There are a few other things to keep in mind, like horsepower and rider capacity. You’ll also need to know the laws for your state on pull sports. There is a lot to cover, so let’s jump right and answer this in more detail.

Please Stay Safe By Following These Tubing Safety Tips!

Before you hop on a tube and go for a ride, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.

I know it may sound simple, but ropes can break, tubes tear apart and seating capacity that affects tow sports. You can still get hurt on a tube on the water, so it’s important you stay safe out there.

Jet Ski Vs Boat – Pull Sports

Let’s be clear, a jet ski pulling someone is not the same as a boat pulling someone.

A boat is heavier and can make bigger waves and wakes, a jet ski will have a little wake, but not anywhere near those of boats and wake boats.

Where jet skis shines over a boat is that they’re easier to get going on the water and put up compared to a boat. After coming home from a long day at work, it’s easier to get on the watercraft and towable-tube or wakeboard than to get the boat going.

Many jet skis you get will have different modes to make pull sports and pulling tubes easier. You not only have cruise control and speed control options, but some models come with a SKI-MODE that gives you even more control. You also have trim on a few jet skis that helps you have better control when pulling tubes and can help give you a slightly better wake.

List of reasons why a jet ski is better than a boat for pull sports:

  1. They’re cheaper than boats.
  2. Easier to hop on and go.
  3. A jet ski will use less fuel in comparison to a larger boat.
  4. You can take them more places than a boat since there is no exposed prop.
  5. It’s easier to launch them at the boat ramp.
  6. It’s cheaper to store them, or they take up less space at your home.
  7. A few models have modes and features geared toward tow sports, like the Sea-Doo WAKE models have SKI-MODE, Pylon, and wakeboard holder.

Shock Tube Keep You From Sucking Up Ropes

There is one drawback to them pulling tubes and wakeboards, and that is the jet pump likes to suck up ropes.

The good news is that there is a thing called a shock tube (Amazon Link Ad) that helps to keep the rope away. You can also buy rope that floats (Amazon Link Ad), but most importantly, avoid reversing or driving back over your tow-rope.

If you do suck up a rope, here is what you do.

How To Remove Rope From Jet Pump

If you pull anyone behind your watercraft, there will come a day when you suck up the tow-rope.

When you suck up the rope, it will wrap around the driveshaft and often stops the engine. You will need to cut the rope free, as it’s often ruined once it’s been wrapped around so tight.

You need to get the PWC out of the water and look under the hull at the intake. Using a long knife, you cut the rope free. Do not remove the intake grate, as it’s often through bolted, and it’s more likely you’ll strip the bolts. If you can’t get the rope free, you need to remove the pump from the rear.

Removing the pump is an involved process, so it’s best to let a professional do it. Otherwise, I suggest attaching your knife to a stick and slowly cut the rope free.

Watch Out When You Reverse

You want to avoid going into reverse when doing any pullsports. You run the risk of the jet pump sucking up the tow-rope and that stopping the engine.

When in doubt, shut the engine off.

The Seating Capacity & Rules For Towables

Another way a waverunner differs from a boat when it comes to pulling tubes is the seating capacity rules.

Basically, if the waverunner is a 3-person seating capacity, you can only have 3 people total on the waverunner and towable-tube combined. That means 2 people on the ski and one person on the tube.

In the states that allow it, if you have a mirror, you can have 1 person on the ski and 2 on the tube.

They do this in case someone gets hurt, there is enough room for them to get back to safety. This rule is a hard one that many water police will give you a ticket for not following.

You Need A Spotter

In some states, a spotter is needed if you do any pull sports like tubing.

The US Coast Guard has a nice chart that explains all the states rules here.

A spotter is someone who sits rear-facing on the watercraft to keep an eye on the person being pulled. Some of these states also require a skier down flag (Amazon Link Ad) when the person does fall off to warn other boaters.

Some states don’t require a spotter, but need a mirror, so the driver can see if you fall off. Not every machine comes with mirrors, so keep this in mind when it comes to pull sports!

Being a spotter is not so bad on a few models, like the Sea-Doo WAKE, as they have a pylon the spotter can hold on to and cut-outs for your feet to go.

It’s best to stick to slower speeds (20 MPH and under) when you have a spotter, as they don’t always have the best grip. Quick take-offs should be avoided, as falling off the rear of the jet ski with the pump blasting at you is not fun. In fact, the warning stickers on the jet ski will tell you why it’s not fun.

Tubing Safety Tips Listed

  • No matter if you’re on the jet ski or tube, you need the correct life jacket, as covered in this post.
  • Avoid rocks and shallow areas.
  • Use your skier down flag if someone falls off!
  • Avoid busy areas, find a quiet cove for pull sports as other boaters are not paying attention as much as they should.
  • Use hand signals for the person being pulled to let the driver know to slowdown, speed up, stop and emergency.
  • Take a boater safety course, especially if you’re new to boating.
  • Wear wetsuit bottoms, no matter if you’re male or female, wear the proper bottoms!

The Best PWC For Pulling Tubes

The best watercraft for pulling tubes and most pull sports is the Sea-Doo WAKE 170.

The Sea-Doo WAKE is a good around watercraft that has plenty of power and features made for pulling people on tubes and wakeboards.

At 170 HP, the WAKE has more than enough power for pulling tubes and wakeboards. You also have SKI-MODE that allows you to set the take-off power and top speed, so you get repeatable pulls every time.

Not only that, but you have the pylon and wakeboard rack that comes with the model. The WAKE 170 and 155 have always been a huge hit for the features color schemes they have.

Can A Sea-Doo Spark Or Yamaha EX Pull Tubes?

A Sea-Doo Spark and a Yamaha EX models can pull tubes, I’ve been pulled on a tube by my 90 HP Spark before, and I’m a 240 pound man.

The problem is that these models lack enough power for pull sports, and while they can do it, don’t expect a lot, especially for full-sized adults. For pulling the kids around, they’re fine.

You will notice the engine working harder, so make sure to take a few breaks.

Pulling Proof

3up 90HP Spark

130HP GTI

155HP Wake 155 (170HP Too)

215HP Wake Pro (230 Too) – More than enough power for anyone for pulling.

300HP

Overkill in power for pulling anyone. Casey Neistat Made a Video about him being pulled by an RXP-X 300 which is a 2-Seater so this would be a no-no in many States. Also, you can not jet ski in those canal’s but it shows that a 300 is enough if not overkill for pulling anyone or anything behind a jet ski. Otherwise, it’s a great video!

Author

Steven

I started working at a power sports dealership in 2007, I worked in parts, service counter, and as a technician before moving to sales in 2013. I created StevenInSales.com in 2014 to answer common watercraft questions I would get from people. Now managing the site full-time, I continue to provide advice and web tools for my readers about watercraft. I've owned several watercraft, with a Sea-Doo Spark as my current main PWC.

Comments

  1. My family and I are in the market for a PWC that will be primarily used for water sports such as skiing, tubing and wakeboarding.

    My first question: should I be looking solely at each manufacturers offering for such a machine (like Sea Doos Wake Pro 230) or can I/should I be looking at other PWCs that don’t specifically mention water sports ? I assume that other PWCs can pull skiers and tubers even though they are not marketed as such. Is the Sea Doo Wake Pro made differently so that it functions better as a water sport machine ? If so, can you elaborate ? Or is it just marketing.

    My second question: New or used. Is there a big difference in the various water sports models from year to year? Wake Pro for instance: can I use the same hours/years/storage guidelines that you have laid out in previous posts for a water sports PWC vs. a pure cruising/speed PWC ? Does hauling skiers and tubes put extra strain on any part of the PWC that you would need to take into consideration when buying used (is 1 hour of pulling a tube different than 1 hour of just flying across a lake @ 45mph)? Have manufacturers learned over the years and made any dramatic changes to design or powertrain for models specifically used for water sports?

    Reply
    • Any jet ski can pull tubes, but the more HP you go with, the more power you have to pull. I would stay with 125HP or more if you’re going to do a lot of pulling. The WAKE models are quite nice, they have features like SKI Mode that makes the person driving life easier and the person being pulled gets a constant pull. With SKI Mode, you set the take-off power and the top speed, and the jet ski does the work for you. The WAKE also have a ski pylon which is nice as it gets the tow-rope up higher which is ideal for wakeboarders. You don’t need these items, but it does make things a lot easier, and for some Sea-Doo’s you can add these features, so you don’t exactly need a WAKE model.

      The significant differences happen in generations of new bodies. When Sea-Doo went with the S3 hull in 2009 and didn’t change that until 2018, those two machines do ride different and have a different feel. But going from something like a 2015 GTX to a 2016 GTX is not always a huge change. Jet ski manufacturers try to have a new body every 8 to 10 years.

      I draw no difference between 1 hour pulling a tube and 1 hour of just riding. When it comes to jet skis, it’s usually all or nothing. People ride them hard all the time, so there is no need to separate the hours. As for strain on the engine, go with more horsepower when you can for pull sports. You can feel the strain with the smaller engines, my 90HP spark will pull me on a tube, but you can smell it struggling and feel it too. That 170HP (or 155HP from the past) Sea-Doo engine is just a good pull sports engine, the 230HP is better, but that 170HP is the Goldilocks of power. The 300HP engine is just overkill for pull sports.

      Reply
  2. I’ve been a slalom skier for over 35 years and have wake-boarded several years as well behind large boats and various PWC (Yamaha 150 hp and Sea Doo 210 hp). I weigh ~ 180 to 190 lbs and the biggest challenge has always been getting UP and on PLANE ASAP to minimize fatigue and false starts. I can personally tell you from experience there is no substitute for HP in getting that job done well – whether you are wake-boarding or skiing. Waging the tail of the PWC can be an issue on hard far out turns when SKIING, but less of an issue wake-boarding because you are typically on a higher plane with less resistance and less force on the PWC.I actually enjoy slalom skiing behind a powerful PWC and waging its tail in turns – the spotter always has a big smile on his face. I am now looking to purchase 2 new PWC just for that purpose (I have three growing boys now) and I would NEVER consider any PWC with less than 200 HP. In my case, I will likely get the SD Wake Pro with 230 HP and a SD GTX 300 Limited with 300 HP. If money is not an issue – GET MORE HP – you will be happier in the end (IMO) and they tend to have higher resale values years later when they boost the HP levels on newer ones to absurd levels, like 400 or 500 HP (like 300 HP is not there already).

    Reply
    • Hey Bubba Boy,
      I’m think about getting a 2022 GTX230 with the plans of doing a lot of tow sports. Only reason I’m considering that and not a Wake Pro is that I can get a GTX 230 with all the wakeboard/ski accessories and get iDF for about the same price as a Wake Pro without iDF. Only concern is that the seats are different. Is a GTX seat still comfortable for the backward seated observer?

      Reply
  3. Hello, thanks for the post. I’m looking at a wake 155, but I’m about 220 LBS and the salesman said the seadoo would be swaying all over if I tried to wakeboard behind it. Is he just trying to up sell me? Do you think it could handle my weight fine?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • It sounds like he’s upselling you. The WAKE Pro, the bigger WAKE, is only 62 pounds heavier and won’t make a difference in “swaying”. I’ve had people closer to 280 be pulled by the WAKE 155 without issues.

      Reply

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