Any water tubing event on the water will demand a boat with sufficient horsepower to tow both the inflatable tubes and their passengers around. In most cases, speedboats are often used for water tubing because they exceed these horsepower prerequisites. In contrast, the compatibility of pontoon boats with water tubing is a bit more difficult to determine.
You can water tube with a pontoon boat so long as the horsepower is sufficient to tow both the tube and its passenger(s). There should be at least one horsepower for every 40 pounds of boat weight. The heavier the pontoon boat, the more horsepower that’s required.
Pontoon boats are not known for their power, mainly because they’re more often used for leisurely bouts on the water rather than water sport activities. Read further to discover exactly why pontoon boats can be used for water tubing, along with how pontoon boats stack up to other water vessels with respect to water tubing.
Why You Can Water Tube with a Pontoon Boat
Tubing has emerged as one of the most popular water sports to date because of it’s quick learning curve. Practically anyone can do it, as there’s not a ton of strength, balance, or coordination involved.
Although water tubing may have little to no physical requirements, many people have questions surrounding the boating requirements for this activity. In order to tow both an inflatable tube and its passenger(s) on the water, you obviously need some power from the boat engine to do so.
Low, streamlined ski boats are largely considered to be the best type of water vessels for this activity (source). After all, if they can tow a water skier at high speeds, they can definitely do the same with a water tuber.
Jet boats, sport boats, and even jet skis also work well with tubing. Since they can reach planing speeds very quickly, it’s easy for these water vessels to tow tubes up and onto the water so they can skim across its surface.
Pontoon boats, on the other hand, do not exactly fit the specifications of a stereotypical tow boat. Since they were made to have a greater carrying capacity and cruise along the water, pontoon boats aren’t necessarily the first water vessel people think of when they want to tube. Most people only ever associate pontoon boats with pleasurable, recreational tours on the water.
In spite of this reputation, however, pontoon boats can tow tubes. It may not be the fastest and most powerful water vessel, but—if it has the appropriate engine—it will do perfectly fine with water tubing. There are multiple reasons for this, which we will delve further into next.
Horsepower Should Be Sufficient to Tow a Tube
The reputation of pontoon boats may not be built upon their horsepower, but they’re still capable of towing water tubes and their passenger(s). How can that be?
Most modern pontoon boats can run at speeds of 20 mph, which is ideal for towing water tubes. Ultimately, it comes down to what engine the pontoon boat has.
Pontoon boats are a bit on the heavier side, especially when you take into account the additional weight of the gear and passengers it carries on board.
To give you some perspective, the average pontoon boat weighs approximately 4,200 lbs, including the weight of the additional gear and passengers aboard (source). In contrast, the average weight of a personal watercraft (the generic name for jet skis and wave runners) only weighs about 850 lbs (source).
For this reason, pontoon boats usually demand more horsepower than your normal boat in order to follow this general guideline. After performing a bit of calculation, you will find that the average pontoon boat would have to be capable of at least 105 hp for the purposes of tubing.
So if you’re genuinely curious as to whether or not your pontoon boat can tow a water tube, check the horsepower on your engine. That should offer a solid indication as to the real viability of water tubing with your boat.
You can learn more about the horsepower requirements for water tubing by clicking over to Proper Amount of Horsepower to Pull a Water Tube.
Most Pontoon Boats Come Equipped with Tow Bars or Pylons
Pontoon boats may be largely used for ferrying passengers around and taking people along leisure cruises, but many pontoon boats still come with tow bars or pylons.
These accessories allow pontoon boats to easily tow other water vessels. Boat operators do not have to fiddle around and improvise a way to tow other water vessels through some unsafe means.
Fortunately, water tubes aren’t all that heavy, so it isn’t that difficult for a tow bar to manage the burden of this weight load. With heavier water vessels, however, there may be some complications.
Pontoon boats may come equipped with tow bars, but you have to understand that this doesn’t mean they’re capable of reaching high speeds. Again, this ties back to the subject of horsepower we discussed earlier.
If you truly want to get the most out of your water tubing experience, having a tow bar or pylon is only half of the equation. The other half is possessing an engine of appropriate horsepower to tow a water tube at sufficient speeds. With an engine that lacks sufficient horsepower, the tow bar would be rendered practically useless.
Pontoon Boats Offer Enough Maneuverability to Avoid Obstacles
Lastly, pontoon boats are actually quite capable of navigating through the water. They may not look all that maneuverable, but they are more than capable of avoiding any obstacles that appear in the water.
The boat driver should be able to execute quick turns and perform sudden changes of direction with relative ease. It won’t be able to accomplish this nearly as well as a ski boat or sport boat for instance, but pontoon boats are more than qualified to steer clear of any potential collisions.
This is obviously good news, as water tubers shouldn’t have to worry about being put in harm’s way. Instead, they can keep their attention focused on holding onto the handles and enjoying their time on the water.
Potential Drawbacks of Tubing with a Pontoon Boat
As we have established, pontoon boats are certainly a viable option for water tubing. There’s no doubt that pontoon boats have all the functionalities needed for this activity. I can actually speak from experience on this topic having enjoyed tubing behind a pontoon boat as a kid over multiple summers.
Nevertheless, you should know that pontoon boats are not the ideal boats to use for water tubing. They have several disadvantages that you should consider. All of these potential drawbacks are explored below.
Not Ideal for Wild, Fast-Moving Tube Rides
One of the most exciting elements of tubing on the water is being towed at high speeds. There’s nothing quite like feeling the wind run through your hair and abruptly going airborne as soon as you hit a wave.
The only problem is that this excitement demands a considerable amount of horsepower. While pontoon boats may reach sufficient tubing speeds for young children, it may not be enough for thrill-seekers that want to push beyond their comfort zone. Typically, this threshold lies beyond 20 mph.
Many pontoon boats top out around these speeds, especially when there’s a lot of gear and passengers onboard. Other types of boats—like ski boats or speed boats—are better built for wild adventures on the water. So if you haven’t committed to the pontoon boat just yet, keep that in the back of your mind.
May Not Be Able to Tow as Many Passengers
Another factor to consider is the amount of passengers that a pontoon boat can tow. Many pontoon boats can tow one or two riders, but what happens when you want to tow three, four, or beyond?
At some point, there may be too many passengers for a pontoon boat to handle. You may experience trouble reaching adequate planing speeds for the tube to skim along the water’s surface. Even if the tube does manage to reach planing speeds, the speeds may still be too slow to be enjoyable.
Obviously, the more passengers that are tubing at any given time, the more weight that has to be towed. If your pontoon boat is already struggling to tow two riders, it may not be enough to tow this extra weight.
Again, the issue can be traced back to the horsepower of your boat engine. If your engine lies on the upper echelon in terms of horsepower, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. In the event that you lie on the opposite end of the spectrum, you may be forced to take just a single rider at a time.
It’s a smart idea to reduce the amount of extra gear and passengers onboard so that you can maximize speeds on the water and tow the most amount of tubers possible. It may not seem like it would make much of a difference, but you would be surprised with the results. Just remember to always have a spotter with you!
You can learn more about what spotters are and why they’re so important by clicking over to Why Spotters are Needed for Water Tubing (Explained).
Is Tubing with a Pontoon Boat Still Worth It?
As you’ve already learned, there are certain drawbacks to tubing with a pontoon boat. This begs the question, is it even worth the time to tube with a pontoon boat?
The answer to this question is a resounding yes!
Even though pontoon boats are not considered the most powerful vessels for towing water tubes, there are pontoon boats out there that have enough horsepower to make for an enjoyable experience. If you keep the amount of tubers to a minimum, reaching sufficient tubing speeds should be no problem at all.
Not everyone is out on a water tube seeking a spike of adrenaline. In fact, it can be argued that most tubers are simply looking for a unique way to cruise on the water. In that sense, if you have a group of kids that just want to get out onto a lake and try something new, pontoon boats are definitely worth it.
Going at high speeds would likely do harm than good anyway. You don’t want to jeopardize the safety of kids in the hopes of getting their hearts racing.
If you’re wondering what age children can safely start water tubing, read through What Age Can Kids Go Water Tubing? (Solved).
In short, you don’t need a ski boat or a sport boat to water tube. Similar to how tubing doesn’t have many physical prerequisites, this activity doesn’t have that many boating prerequisites either.