Boating World’s Annual Water Toys Test 2015

Boating World's Annual Water Toy TestOK, something weird’s going on here. It’s time for Boating World’s sixth-annual tube test, and like death, taxes and lousy network TV, it’s a given that the weather is going to be bad. This year, however, down was up, in was out and the weather for tubing was excellent. And we took advantage of it by giving our nine testers the ride of their lives. Not only were they a hardy lot, always coming back for more, but they were really smart and eloquent, giving us solid feedback on each tube without reverting to teen-speak clichés, like, you know, everything being so totally awesome and such. The best line came from one of our testers who said a tube might be appropriate for older people, and when I said “Ouch” and made the international sign for being stabbed, he back-tracked, saying, “I didn’t mean you, I meant someone old … like a 30-year-old.” Nice try.

Boating World's Annual Tube TestOnce again we staged at historic Sandy Hook Beach on Lake Weir in central Florida, where people who love the water have been gathering since 1911. While not much has changed there, Transition Watersports (transitionwatersports.com) underwent a huge … er … transition, by expanding brands beyond Centurion to include, Bryant, Crest pontoons, Malibu and Axis. Owner Nate Stockman was behind the wheel of his Centurion Enzo and gave the kids a great ride while adhering to the Water Sports Industry Association (WSIA) guidelines for safe towing (check out a great video entitled “Inflatable Safety” at wsia.net). The result was zero injuries and maximum fun for all. After we were done, the kids weren’t and wanted more rides, which Stockman cheerfully accommodated. For all we know, they may still might be behind Stockman’s boat, screaming with joy.

Boating World's Annual Tube Test Guide 2015

Nash No Fear Hangtime 3

Nash No Fear Hangtime 3FUN SCALE: 4/5
MSRP: $350
SETUP: 3/5 — 1 Boston valve, 1 large speed safety valve, 2 small speed safety valves
DIM.: 89″ x 83″
RIDERS: 3
HANDHOLDS: 6
UNIQUE: D-shaped tube with two rider seats with backrests; two sit in the middle and one rider kneels in back.
MATERIAL: 840 Denier (abbreviated D from now on) nylon cover, 30-gauge PVC bladder
ERGONOMICS: Neoprene seats, padded handles with EVA knuckle guards
POSITIONS: Sitting, kneeling
RAFT-UP RATING: 5/5 — Two loungers have feet-up chaise-lounge seating with comfortable backrests, while a third person can sit in back with feet dangling in the water.
COMMENTS: “We saw that it was only rated for three but we found room for a fourth. They were right, it’s a great tube with three riders.” “Well-placed handholds made it easy to hang on when going over the wake.”

WOW FaceOFF

WOW FaceOFFFUN SCALE: 3.5/5
MSRP: $480
SETUP: 2/5 — 3 speed safety valves, 1 was for huge main chamber, which would heat up most pumps
DIM.: 110″ x 65″
RIDERS: 4
HANDHOLDS: 14 padded handles with EVA foam knuckle guards, 6 flat foam handles
UNIQUE: Rectangular tube can be towed in two directions with passengers facing each other.
MATERIAL: Heavy-duty nylon cover with 3 heavy-duty PVC bladders
ERGONOMICS: Comfortable seatbacks and handles, but not enough legroom for taller riders and tall cockpit made it awkward to prop feet up.
POSITIONS: Sitting, lying, kneeling
RAFT-UP RATING: 4/5 — Two couples can sit facing each other with comfortable backrests.
COMMENTS: “Not a lot of legroom for taller riders.” “It was cool to have different ways to ride it.” “It was more fun towed the long way than sideways.”

O’Brien Aero 2

O'Brien Aero 2FUN SCALE: 3.5/5
MSRP: $378
SETUP: 4/5 — 1 Boston valve for main chamber, 2 beach-ball valves that were hard to close before losing air
DIM.: 92″ x 62″
RIDERS: 2
HANDHOLDS: 4 padded handholds with EVA knuckle guards plus 4 flat nylon handles
UNIQUE: Wider up front than in the back. Passengers sit in narrow cockpits with additional backrests for support. Because the riders sit far back, the tube rides nose-high.
MATERIAL: 420D nylon cover, 26-gauge PVC bladder
ERGONOMICS: Padded, well-positioned handles and good back support make it very comfortable.
POSITIONS: Sitting, kneeling
RAFT-UP RATING: 5/5 — Tall backrests make this a great lounger at rest.
COMMENTS: “Really fast in corners.” “Sitting area was pretty narrow and long legs didn’t fit too well; probably better for younger riders.” “You can really feel the water underneath you.”

O’Brien Sombrero

O'Brien SombreroFUN SCALE: 5/5 **Kid Favorite**
MSRP: $660
SETUP: 3/5 — At 80 pounds, it’s hard to move around; 3 Boston valves make it easier but due to large volume, it takes a while to fill.
DIM.: 110″ diameter
RIDERS: 5
HANDHOLDS: 22 padded handles, all with EVA knuckle guards
UNIQUE: The only tube ever made shaped like a giant sombrero.
MATERIAL: 420/840D nylon covers, 24/30-gauge PVC bladders
ERGONOMICS: Plenty of room for 5 riders with plenty of handholds. Because you are sitting or standing, your legs absorb the bumps.
POSITIONS: Sitting, standing
RAFT-UP RATING: 5/5 — At rest, up to seven people (depending on size) could sit facing inward. The crown of the sombrero could be improved by adding a cooler.
COMMENTS: “Really comfortable going over the bumps, really smooth ride.” “With this tube, the more people you have on it the more fun it is.” “Really good for young riders and older riders … you know, like those over 30.” [Ed. note: Ouch!]

SportsStuff High Roller 2

SportsStuff High Roller 2FUN SCALE: 3.5/5
MSRP: $360
SETUP: 3/5 — 4 speed safety valves, which is quite a few for a relatively small tube
DIM.: 81″ x 70″
RIDERS: 2
HANDHOLDS: 8 padded handles with EVA knuckle guards
UNIQUE: The top of the tube resembles two turtle shells that riders lie on; bottom of the tube has rounded bumps to reduce drag for faster action.
MATERIAL: Heavy-duty nylon cover and PVC bladder
ERGONOMICS: When inflated to normal tube standards, the riders complained it felt too hard against their chest; with less air it was more comfortable and less stiff going over wakes.
POSITION: Lying
RAFT-UP RATING: 2/5 — Not a great candidate for lounging on at rest.
COMMENTS: “Really good speed in corners.” “It was a little stiff going over the wakes.” “Some of the seams kind of scratched you.” “Sitting high off the water was fun.”

HO Glide 3

HO Glide 3FUN SCALE: 5/5 **Kid Favorite**
MSRP: $380
SETUP: 1/5 — 2 Boston valves and round design make it really easy to inflate.
DIM.: 84″ diameter
RIDERS: 3
HANDHOLDS: 6 padded handles plus 3 flat nylon reboarding and carrying handles
UNIQUE: Round shape has convex bottom for reduced drag and higher speeds.
MATERIAL: Heavy-duty nylon outer and PVC bladder covered on top with Softshell top material
ERGONOMICS: Unlike most tubes that have the nylon cover cushioned in only strategic locations, its top is totally covered by its Softshell top, which is very comfortable.
POSITION: Lying
RAFT-UP RATING: 4/5 — Its large diameter makes it a great sunning platform.
COMMENTS: “Really tall tube puts you above the spray and makes it more exciting.” “Very comfortable, smooth and stable.” “Surprisingly fast for a big tube.” “Kind of hard to get back on after you crash.”

Airhead Live Wire 3

Airhead Live Wire 3 FUN SCALE: 4.5/5
MSRP: $430
SETUP: 3/5 — 3 speed safety valves; best to fill the bottom one first for easier access
DIM.: 85″ x 76″
RIDERS: 3
HANDHOLDS: 6 padded handles with neoprene knuckle guards
UNIQUE: Tube can be ridden two ways: forward with up to three riders sitting against a comfortable backrest, or backwards chariot-style with passengers kneeling.
MATERIAL: Heavy-duty nylon cover and PVC bladder
ERGONOMICS: Very comfortable backrest with plenty of legroom to stretch out. It could use a neoprene seat for the riders’ knees when riding it chariot-style.
POSITIONS: Sitting, kneeling
RAFT-UP RATING: 5/5 — Great tube for just floating around on. Tall backrest and ample legroom put loungers in a comfortable position.
COMMENTS: “Fast and gets lots of air over the wake.” “Fun for riders of all ages.” “Nice backrest makes it really comfortable.”

Nash No Fear Dropzone 4

Nash No Fear Dropzone 4FUN SCALE: 4.5/5 **Great Value** **Kid Favorite**
MSRP: $200
SETUP: 5/5 — 1 Boston valve makes it the easiest of the bunch to inflate.
DIM.: 80″ wide (only dimension given)
RIDERS: 4
HANDHOLDS: 8 padded handles with neoprene knuckle guards plus two reboarding handles
UNIQUE: The smallest and least expensive tube of the group to accommodate 4 riders. Sits low to the water for exaggerated sense of speed.
MATERIAL: 840D, 28-gauge PVC bladder
ERGONOMICS: Neoprene pad for elbows (although some handles put the elbows behind the pad). The tube could be slightly longer for taller riders.
POSITION: Lying
RAFT-UP RATING: 4/5 — 80-inch width makes it good for catching rays.
COMMENTS: “Thrilling ride.” “Really gets outside of wakes easily.” “More for teenagers than younger riders, who might not have the strength to hang on.” “Thanks, Mr. Nate, for not driving crazy; our heads were pretty close together.”

O’Brien Mach 2

O'Brien Mach 2FUN SCALE: 4/5
MSRP: $250
SETUP: 2/5 — 2 speed safety valves, one hidden behind a zipper underneath, which was jammed by the material covering it (covered by 1-year warranty, so we could have returned it)
DIM.: 70 ” diameter
RIDERS: 2
HANDHOLDS: 4 padded handles with EVA knuckle guards, 2 flat nylon reboarding handles
UNIQUE: Disk-style tube has a semicircular running surface underneath to reduce drag and increase height and speed.
MATERIAL: 420D nylon cover, heavy-duty PVC bladder
ERGONOMICS: Lots of room for passengers’ legs. Handle placement is a bit odd. It rides high to keep riders’ faces out of the spray.
POSITIONS: Lying, kneeling
RAFT-UP RATING: 4/5 — Plenty of room to lay down and catch rays.
COMMENTS: “Really fast and exciting.” “It could use more handles in the middle.” “Challenging to stay on when being whipped.” “Better for teenagers than young riders.”

WOW UTO Starship

WOW UTO StarshipFUN SCALE: 5/5 **Kid favorite**
MSRP: $750
SETUP: 3/5 — 3 speed safety valves (Since two of them are in the deep cockpit, inflate those first, a lesson we learned too late.)
DIM.: 103″ diameter
RIDERS: 5
HANDHOLDS: 8 padded handles with EVA knuckle guards, 10 flat nylon handles
UNIQUE: It’s a giant multicolored spaceship on the water with a nearly 3-foot-deep cockpit for the ultimate in passenger containment. Two can ride inside and three can hang on outside.
MATERIAL: Heavy-duty nylon cover and PVC bladder
ERGONOMICS: Passengers inside the cockpit stand comfortably on an inflated running surface, passengers on the outside stand or kneel on a slanted surface, which requires minimal extra effort.
POSITIONS: Standing, kneeling, sitting
RAFT-UP RATING: 2/5 — Slanted sides make it hard to chill out; passengers inside the cockpit can stand and lean against the sides.
COMMENTS: “Younger riders will feel really safe inside the center ring.” “Hanging on the outside was more challenging because of the sloped sides.” “Really bouncy in the middle; like a trampoline.” “Very stable, but a little hard to get outside of wake.”

HO Sports Mavericks 2

HO Sports Mavericks 2FUN SCALE: 4/5
MSRP: $170
SETUP: 3/5 — 1 Boston valve, two beach-ball valves that were hard to seal without losing air
DIM.: 64″ diameter
RIDERS: 2
HANDHOLDS: 4 padded, 2 flat nylon reboarding handles
UNIQUE: D-shaped deck tube with a low mount point to raise front of the tube, which is thinner in the back for easy reboarding.
MATERIAL: Heavy-duty vinyl cover with top covered in Softshell, PVC bladder
ERGONOMICS: The Softshell top is noticeably friendlier to the body and chafes less than the nylon cover.
POSITIONS: Lying, kneeling
RAFT-UP RATING: 4/5 — Long enough to lay on sideways. Yellow winglets can be used as pillows.
COMMENTS: “Challenging to ride, but in a good way.” “Better for older, more experienced tubers.” “It could be slightly longer so more of your legs are in it.”

Full Throttle Speed Ray 2

Full Throttle Speed Ray 2FUN SCALE: 3.5/5
MSRP: $350
SETUP: 3/5 — 1 Boston valve for main chamber, 2 beach-ball valves that were hard to close without losing air
DIM.: 90″ x 73″
RIDERS: 2
HANDHOLDS: 4 padded handles with EVA knuckleguards, 2 flat nylon reboarding handles
UNIQUE: Shaped like a manta ray with upturned wings.
MATERIAL: Heavy-duty nylon cover, heavy-duty PVC bladder
ERGONOMICS: Comfortable riding position with lots of room for two passengers.
POSITIONS: Lying, kneeling
RAFT-UP RATING: 4/5 — Upturned wings create a backrest for more upright lounging.
COMMENTS: “The wings keep you from sliding off in hard corners.” “Very comfortable ride.” “Younger riders will love it.” “It had a hard time getting outside the wake.”

Nash Arsenal

Nash ArsenalFUN SCALE: 3/5
MSRP: $130
SETUP: 1/5 — 1 Boston valve
DIM.: 66″ diameter
RIDERS: 2
HANDHOLDS: 4 padded handles
UNIQUE: One of the few in our test without a nylon cover. Winglets on the side help riders from sliding off when being whipped.
MATERIAL: PVC tube with Comfort Top upper
ERGONOMICS: Handles were awkwardly placed, but Comfort Top surface was very comfortable with little chafing.
POSITION: Lying
RAFT-UP RATING: 4/5 — Wings create a headrest for lounging.
COMMENTS: “Fuzzy surface was very comfortable.” “The side wings kept you from sliding off.” “Surprisingly, for a small tube it was hard for it to get outside the wake.”

Connelly Falcon 2

Connelly Falcon 2FUN SCALE: 4/5
MSRP: $360
SETUP: 1/5 — 1 Boston valve
DIM.: 64″ x 60″
RIDERS: 2
HANDHOLDS: 8 padded handles
UNIQUE: Convex running surface reduces drag and adds more side-to-side rocking action. Can be towed from behind to ride chariot-style.
MATERIAL: 840D vinyl cover, 30-gauge PVC bladder
ERGONOMICS: Tall backrest makes it very couch-like. A long tube with plenty of room to stretch out legs.
POSITIONS: Sitting, kneeling
RAFT-UP RATING: 5/5 — Incredibly comfortable sitting position is ideal for raft-up lounging.
COMMENTS: “Really smooth over the wake.” “Sits really high off the water.” “The most comfortable tube we tested all day.” “All we needed was a TV and some popcorn.”

Full Throttle Mega Enforcer

Full Throttle Mega EnforcerFUN SCALE: 4.5/5
MSRP: $270
SETUP: 1/5 — 1 Boston valve
DIM.: 80″ diameter
RIDERS: 3
HANDHOLDS: 6 padded handles with neoprene knuckle guards, 2 flat nylon reboarding handles
UNIQUE: D-shaped deck tube is slightly taller than most deck tubes with lots of room for three.
MATERIAL: Heavy-duty nylon cover, heavy-duty PVC bladder
ERGONOMICS: Handles spaced well apart for good rider separation. The tow point is positioned so spray doesn’t tend to hit riders’ faces.
POSITIONS: Lying, kneeling
RAFT-UP RATING: 4/5 — It’s a good sunning platform.
COMMENTS: “It was fast but really stable going over the wake.” “Perfect for ‘tweenagers’.” “Very comfortable to lie on; nothing that scratched you.”

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