Gladiator Sonix I ($149.99)
The Gladiator Sonix I is more of a “ride-in” than “ride-on” tube. Like a mini rubber life raft, it features cockpit seating that’s perfect for those who would rather kick back and enjoy than be forced to hang on. An inflatable backrest provides some support; EVA knuckle guards are positioned below the Sonix’s two padded handles to avoid scrapes. The entire inflatable is fully covered by an outer nylon skin, with a sewn-in quick-connect tow point at the bow.
The Gladiator was perfect for our youngest tester after she was unceremoniously flung into the chilly water while testing another tube. Its relatively tame, controlled ride proved well matched to younger kids who might not want a full-on thrill ride, or older crewmembers who just feel like chilling. But the Sonix can get aggressive. Head for the wake and it jumps into the air like a sled on a ski hill. The catch? With a relatively thin inflatable floor, and the seated position preventing the rider from absorbing the shock, those landings can be a jolt on the back. Size is also a limitation. Though 60 inches in length, the generous inflatable collar limits the actual size of its cockpit, making it great for young kids but a tube that is hard-pressed to carry an adult in comfort.
Best for: Kids or smaller adults; those looking for a tamer ride.
More info: Gladiator Sonix I