Best New Tubes

An inside look into some of the best new inflatables on the market.

If you have a boat, you probably have some sort of inflatable tow toy. But if your favorite tube is leaking or showing its age, this might be a good time to shop for a replacement, as there are some exciting new rides on the market. I should know, because I recently had the chance to try some of the best new tubes you can buy.

My name is Nash Hoover. I'm 12 years old, and my buddies and I go tubing whenever we can get my dad to drive the boat. So when Boating Life asked me to make a wish list of new tubes and then go out and ride them all, I was all over it! After getting whipped and tossed and bounced on a bunch of different tubes, my pals and I narrowed down our picks to a half-dozen of the best new models we could find.

Aero Tunnell 2
»In A Word: Civilized

»Out Of The Box: Catamaran hulls and a pickle-fork front section allow the Aero Tunnel 2 to ride up and over small chop, and they make for a stable ride at both low and high speeds. The inflated backrests and armrests provide comfort, while four handgrips and eight boarding handles enhance security.

»Post-Ride Analysis: You need two riders to balance the pull, and there's no problem with hitting a few wakes and catching some air. Overall, however, the best use might be a joyride around the lake, whatever the speed. Even with the handholds, it's not easy to reboard from the water, but fortunately it's also unlikely you'll fall off in the first place.

»Bottom Line: MSRP $289.99; connellyskis.com

Octane
»In A Word: Fast

»Out Of The Box: The Octane is a one- or two-person tube that goes from mild to wild, thanks to a stable 67-inch base and a center cockpit flanked by protective sidewalls. An opening in the back of the sidewall combines with a strategically placed pull-up strap to allow easy entry from the water.

»Post-Ride Analysis: It's a sit-in tube, but you ride higher off the water. Passengers can't steer, but the driver can make huge whips outside the wake without causing a spill — perfect for less-athletic riders who still want speed and thrills. If two passengers share the ride in rough water, they might get banged together.

»Bottom Line: MSRP $380; hosports.com

Poparazzi
»In A Word: Awesome

»Out Of The Box: Up to three riders can kneel, stand or sit on the padded deck. A high-wing shape and rocker bottom allow the Poparazzi to carve across wakes and glide in the flats. The high rise lets riders stand or kneel on the back deck. Inside, riders will teeter deep into the wake, while the other riders will rise high above it.

»Post-Ride Analysis: So much fun it shouldn't be legal! You could ride it solo, but your friends probably won't let you. It's stable enough for riders to switch positions underway, but once you start leaning and steering, things really get exciting. Keep weight toward the rear when starting out, and keep slack to a minimum on wake crossing or you might take a spill — though even those are fun.

»Bottom Line: MSRP $579.95; sportsstuff.com

Matrix V2
»In A Word: Agile

»Out Of The Box: The combination of a three-sided wing design and a pair of inflated sponsons on the bottom allow the V2 to roll up on an edge and track diagonal to the boat. A pair of large neoprene pads protects knees and elbows, while molded knuckle guards provide a secure handhold whether lying down or kneeling. Double-stitched 840-deniernylon cover looks tough and durable.
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»Post-Ride Analysis:** The V2 is fun for one, but even better with two. It's one of the most steerable tubes I've ever ridden, and it's also pretty easy to mount from the water. One rider can lean hard to cut, while the other rider counterleans to keep it from tipping. But be ready to shift your weight to avoid tipping if the driver makes a really fast whip and creates a lot of slack.

»Bottom Line: MSRP $228.99; jetlogic.com

Hammerhead 1
»In A Word: Forgiving

»Out Of The Box: The Hammerhead series comes in one-, two- and three-person versions. They all feature a unique bottom design that is wider at the leading edge and tapers behind. This gives them extra lift when getting air and makes for a softer landing. They feature handgrips with knuckle guards and a comfortable pad for lying down or kneeling.

»Post-Ride Analysis: It provides plenty of thrills and chances for air, but it's not the best for big wake whips. When you hit a big wake and go airborne, the front end stays up and you land at an angle that cushions the re-entry. The rider can do a bit of steering by body-dragging from side to side, but a hard wake whip might toss you overboard.

»Bottom Line: MSRP $158; obrien.com

4-In-1 Operative
»In A Word: Versatile

»Out Of The Box: You get four rides in one, starting with a 72-inch-diameter sit-in tube that converts to a one- or two-person disc, a single-rider chair or the center-mounted Bronco, which the rider straddles. It takes less than a minute to convert from one mode to another, and the neoprene deck adds comfort and traction.

»Post-Ride Analysis: It's pretty much your average tube when you sit inside or add the flat center section, providing fast wake whips and some air on the bumps. The chair piece is good for slow riders and little kids, while the Bronco piece can turn things radical. Make sure you have the Bronco really well inflated or it's harder to ride.

»Bottom Line: MSRP $299; sevlor.com

Tube Test Team - Thanks to my friends, who got pitched and pummeled all over the lake to help me complete this review: Mason Francis, Jacob Fried, Ashley Lazzarski, Ocean Miller, Amanda Morales, Jared Olson and Kyle Rowley.