Knowing Your Tow Ropes

By Phoebe Solms

You’ve got your boat and you’ve got your wakeboard, you’re ready to hit the water. But what else do you need? Most Tubes, wakeboards, kneeboards, and water skis do not come with the tow ropes and accessories you will need to be ready for the waves, and there are a lot of options. So, what do you need, and what should you choose? We’re here to help.

You are: Wakeboarding/Kneeboarding

The length of your tow rope here is going to be a big factor in stability. Beginners should typically use a rope of about 65 feet in length. Intermediate wakeboarders can bump that up to 75 feet, and an advanced rider can even handle 85 feet. There are also plenty of tow ropes that are adjustable in length. For example, the O’Brien 4-Section Poly-E Wake Combo Tow Rope has a 55-foot, 60-foot, 65-foot, and 70-foot setting. This is a great choice for beginners and kids who will want a shorter rope with more stability but can keep using the same tow line as they get better. It is also important to have a good grip on the handle, something without a lot of traction will get slippery when it is wet and will make it much harder for the rider to hold on, so look for a grip with some texturing. When choosing a wakeboard, keep in mind that bindings, the shoe-like strap ins for your feet that are connected to the board, are most often sold separately. You can’t really wakeboard without the bindings, so it’s good to choose either a slip-in that can be used for people with different-sized feet or something more secure if the rider has their own board and is doing some maneuvers with it. 

You are: Tubing

First off, great choice! Tubing is a favorite of many and comes in so many options, so naturally you’ll need different accessories for a one-person tube as you will for a six-person tube. Since there are so many options in the kind of tube you can buy, there are also a wide range of accessories to pair with it. Tubing tow ropes are also different from other towable sport ropes because the line attaches directly to the tube itself and there is no handle. Do not try and use a wakeboard, wake surf, or waterski tow line with a tube, they are not suited for pulling the weight of a tube and its passenger(s), and will likely snap. Not only is it important to check the person and weight limit on the tube you have, but make sure the tow rope you have is suitable for the size of the tube you own and the weight that will be on it. Most tubing tow lines are 60 feet long, an ideal length for getting some good action on the water. Since people on the tube don’t have a lot of control over direction, a tow rope that is too long will mean very little movement behind the boat and less fun for the riders. There is also a great accessory to tubing called the Shock Ball that makes sure the tow rope doesn’t drag in the water, and if you’ve ever gone tubing you know how much of a difference this can make. If the tow rope drags underneath the water, which is easy since the connection point of the tow rope is so low to the water on the tube, it can whip the tube back and forth when the boat turns. Finally, even though It may not be at the forefront of your mind, make sure you have a way to inflate your tube every season, it’s important to keep it full of air for the best ride. 

You are: Wake Surfing

Wake Surfing is relatively simple in terms of gear. You really only need the board and a tow-in line. Bindings are not used and the line itself is typically only in use for a very small portion of the ride for a tow into the wake, although some riders choose to hold onto the tow line throughout their ride. Because wake surfing takes place so close to the stern of the boat to catch that wave, the line is very short. There is up to 24 feet of line, but most often it is used with about 12 feet of line available. If the motor for the boat is underneath the hull, the wake surfer can be as close as they want to, but if the motor is behind the boat, then be very safe and keep the tow line a little bit longer to avoid bringing the wake surfer and the spinning propeller too close together. 

You are: Water Skiing 

Much like with Wakeboarding and Kneeboarding, a shorter line is easier, and the difficulty increases as the line gets longer. Since different people on your boat may have different skill levels, it is a great idea to get a sectioned tow line – a single line that can be easily adjusted to multiple different lengths, up to 75 feet for most O’Brien tow lines. You may wonder why a ski rope is different than many others, and that is because they will have many adjustments that can go as short as 35 feet, a distance that wouldn’t work as well for a wakeboarder but is great for someone learning to get up on the skis. 

For All Water Sports:

If you aren’t already wearing a life jacket on the boat, it is crucial that you and everyone you are with is wearing one when being towed behind the boat, no matter what. Make sure that the lifejacket is not too small as that will not be buoyant enough for the wearer, or too big as it could slip off. 

Irish Boat Shop carries everything you will need to be ready for the water. We have a wide range of tubes, wakeboards, water skis, wake surf boards, and more in store, and everything you need to go with it. With top-rated brands like O’Brien and Liquid Force, you’re guaranteed to get the best. Come in today to find tow ropes, lifejackets, bindings, and more, as well as the expertise to help you find what is best for you.  

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