08 April 2020

Getting started: Whitewater tubing

April 30, 2012
Getting started Whitewater tubing

Helen Keeling tries out whitewater tubing for Sportsister, an activity that’s rapidly becoming an extreme sport favourite.

There are many ways to navigate river rapids… by raft, by kayak, by canoe. However, if you’re the sort of person that likes to do things differently, then why not travel by rubber ring?

What’s it all about?

Thought to have been founded in Thailand in the 1900s, river tubing involves sitting in a specially designed inner tube and then, quite simply, ‘going with the flow’.

It would be irresponsible, however, to make it sound that easy. Tubing can be an extremely dangerous sport if not treated with the respect that it deserves and so, before embarking on my expedition down the Ziller River in Mayrhofen, Austria, I did a number of things…

Preparation is key

First, I found a reputable company, with qualified instructors, to take me. The instructors knew the Ziller River well and made sure that I only tackled the parts of the river that they thought I would be able to cope with.

Second, I changed into a reinforced neoprene wetsuit, lifejacket, waterproof boots, webbed gloves and helmet. The webbed gloves allowed me to steer my tube (to a degree).

And, third, I took a river swim test before embarking on my adventure, which taught me what to do if caught in a current.

Navigating down the rapids was thrilling, but it was the waterfalls that presented me with the most tachycardic moments. On approaching a ‘drop’, it was impossible to know what was on the other side. Angel Falls? And would I land on, in, or out, of my tube?

I had one frightening moment where I landed out of my tube and then spent the next twenty metres furiously trying to catch up with it. It was during this frenzied pursuit that my knee became far too well-acquainted with a jagged rock.

Is it for me?

I’ve tried a lot of extreme sports in my time and river tubing definitely ranks as one of the more thrilling. The tubes really do seem to have minds of their own and I ended up sporting some colourful bruising. However, whilst the sport’s not for the faint-hearted, if thrill-seeking is your vice, it really can’t be missed.

Other modes of tubing transport

If whitewater tubing, erm, floats your boat, then you might also want to consider snow tubing (sliding down a ski slope on a rubber ring) or kite tubing (similar to kite surfing, but you’re sat in an inner tube). You can also try your hand at towed tubing on rivers or lakes.

Fancy a go?

Whilst the Ziller Valley in Austria provided me with a spectacular, alpine backdrop, tubing can also be enjoyed closer to home…


North Wales

Helen Keeling, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

Image credit: Mountain Sports

You must be logged in to post a comment Login

Select a sport

Find out how to get started, training plans and expert advice.