Why You Can Go River Tubing Even If You Can’t Swim


Tubing is a popular summer pastime for many people all over the world. There’s nothing quite like sitting lazily on a tube in the afternoon sun and slowly drifting along with the river. This experience is so attractive, in fact, that even non-swimmers are drawn to the prospect of river tubing.

You can go river tubing even if you’re unable to swim. Your safety will be ensured because you will have a life jacket to keep you afloat, river tube guides within close proximity, and a large tubing group around you. Plus, these tubing expeditions generally only stick to calm, shallow waters.

Below, we will dig deeper into these safety provisions to help quell any lingering doubts you may still have about tubing as a non-swimmer. Read until the end to get additional tips on how to stay safe while river tubing.

Your Life Jacket Will Keep You Afloat

The life jacket is a must-have for virtually any river tubing trip. The reason being that they keep you afloat on the water’s surface, helping to keep your mouth and nostrils clear of water.

You never know when an unexpected emergency might pop up, which is why life jackets are so handy for river tubing trips. Even those that think they’re capable enough swimmers wear life jackets just to be safe. They’re an added layer of insurance against unintentional drowning for both swimmers and non-swimmers alike.

Although there are different types of life jackets—like single-chamber life jackets and twin-chamber life jackets—they all accomplish this fundamental purpose of holding you at the water’s surface.

In addition, life jackets also help regulate your body temperature when you do go river-tubing. Certain rivers are known to be icy cold and pose a serious risk of hypothermia for those that aren’t careful. Since life jackets are typically made to be heavily insulated, they can help to keep this risk of contracting hypothermia to a minimum.

For all these reasons, a life jacket is a necessity you cannot ignore, particularly as a non-swimmer. It may feel slightly uncomfortable, but it’s infinitely better to put on a life jacket right away than to regret not wearing one later on.

There have been a large number of people who have enjoyed the leisure of floating down the river on a tube without knowing how to swim because they wore a life jacket.

River Tube Guides are Always Nearby

Furthermore, when you sign up for a river tube tour, you will have the presence of an experienced river tube guide at your side.

River tube guides are an undervalued safety measure for river tube excursions. Since they know the local river terrain better than anyone and have amassed a ton of experience with river tubing groups, their expertise will help to prevent any potential disasters.

For example, they’re typically aware of certain complicated parts of the river that are more difficult to traverse, either because the current is stronger or the terrain is simply more complex. They can advise you on how to best manage these scenarios and stay close by to lend a helping hand.

No two rivers are the same, so such experience is extremely invaluable.

Not to mention that the added vote of confidence coming from being around a river tube guide will help you not to panic.

You should also know that river tube guides will take you through a step-by-step safety talk prior to the tubing trip. As a non-swimmer, you should pay close attention to what they have to say, since they’re offering vital information on any potential hazards you may face on the water and what to do in such situations.

In short, even if you’re not the best swimmer, you can still enjoy river tubing with the help of a guide. They have tons of insight into this realm, along with extensive training in swift measure to help you out in the case of an emergency.

River Waters are Generally Calm & Shallow

Most non-swimmers are afraid of the prospect of venturing into rougher, deeper waters for good reason. These conditions can even intimidate the best of swimmers because of how difficult they can be to navigate safely.

Fortunately, you can put your mind at ease, as the water traversed with river tubes aren’t intimidating whatsoever. The majority of river tubing expeditions are held in shallow and calm waters that are absolutely safe for river tubing.

The water level shouldn’t sit too high nor too low. It should sit at just the right level for rider safety. In most cases, the water will be shallow and calm enough for you to wade through should you fall off your tube.

Rivers that don’t fit the above criteria typically aren’t given the benefit of hosting river tubing expeditions. So if you were imagining rough rapids and huge drop-offs, you can breathe a sigh of relief.

It’s worth noting that rivers are typically calm and shallow during the times of the year when rain is scarce. You should make an effort to go river tubing specifically during these times of the year. The rain can make the river conditions somewhat unpredictable, which is not favorable for non-swimmers.

There’s Safety in Going with a Big Tubing Group

If there is one thing that most river tubers can agree upon, it’s that river tubing is safest when in larger groups. This way, if something happens to your tube or you’r suddenly submerged underwater for any reason, other people nearby are there to spot you and be of assistance.

More often than not, some of the people in your group will either be a capable swimmer or an experienced river tuber. Even if they do not fit this description, their extra eyes and ears can help alert the river tube guide should anything go wrong.

It should go without saying, but you should avoid river tubing unsupervised, especially if you don’t know how to swim. You’re setting yourself up for disaster if you face some unexpected obstacle or issue along the river. Your best bet is to sign up on a river tubing excursion with at least a couple of other people that can be there for support.

Additional Tips for Staying Safe While River Tubing

If the reasons above have convinced you of the safety of river tubing as a non-swimmer, you should check out these safety tips below to better prepare for your journey along the river. Of course, these safety tips are not the only out there, but they’re certainly a good place to start.

Let Your River Guide Know You Can’t Swim

As thrilling as river tubing may seem, we cannot forget that river tubing does involve a certain element of risk, particularly if you can’t swim.

For this reason, the very first step you should take before even heading out onto the water with your tube is to let the river guide know of your inability to swim. Furthermore, they should also be aware of any underlying fears you may have of the water, so they can be better able to accommodate you on your trip.

By alerting the river tube guide of your non-swimmer status, they will keep an extra eye on you and stick close by to help you along the way. In some cases, they may even bring a separate guide along to take special care of you on the trip.

Even if you’re embarrassed about the fact that you can’t swim, you shouldn’t withhold this information from your river guide. Your safety takes precedence over everything else, regardless of your personal feelings of unease.

Check the Weather & Water Conditions Beforehand

The conditions of the weather and water should be a point of close observation when you elect to go river tubing. Unfortunately, rivers that are ideal for tubing one day may be too dangerous the next.

Even if it’s a gorgeous day outside, a recent bout of heavy rainfall could mean that the river is too deep to go tubing. On the other hand, a lack of rainfall might make the river too shallow to cross in certain areas due to drought.

This is not information you want to find out once you’re on the water. To be safe, you should check the weather and water conditions by conducting some personal research of your own prior to the trip.

Most river tube outfitters have websites that update river conditions daily. This is accomplished with a color-coded key that tells you whether tubing is open to everyone, able swimmers only, or no one at all. Needless to say, this is something you should check out.

If this information is currently unavailable, you can also contact the outfitter directly to confirm whether the conditions are viable for river tubing.

Know the River’s Depth & Flow Speed

The most important components that ultimately determine how conducive a river is for tubing is the river depth and flow speed (source).

In the event that the water level is too high, the current will be moving too quickly for tubing to be safe. If the flow speed of the river is too excessive, you may run into rapids that put you in unnecessary danger. You should be intimately familiar with these two river conditions before even considering going out on the river.

Both of these guidelines vary depending on the river. Doing a quick search online of your destination should provide the information you’re looking for.

Although river tubing is not without its dangers, you can manage as a non-swimmer if you implement the tips provided throughout this article and use your own sense of intuition to avoid safety hazards.

All content written by HydroPursuit is for informational purposes only. The material found on this site is not intended to replace professional medical advice, treatment, or diagnosis. Consult with an accredited health care provider prior to initiating a new health care regimen.

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Austin Carmody

I am the owner of HydroPursuit. I enjoy kicking back and getting out on the water as much as I can in my free time.

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