CPSC Warns Consumers about Dangers of Tube Kiting, Two Deaths over the Past 3 Months Attributed to New Water Sport

June 30, 2006
Release Number: 06-202

In advance of the July 4th holiday weekend, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is warning consumers about the possible dangers associated with a new type of water recreation known as "tube kiting."

CPSC is concerned about death and injury reports associated with tube kiting. It is currently investigating two versions of these products to determine if there is a significant product hazard.

Tube kiting is a relatively new form of extreme water sport which is fast growing in popularity, but also extremely dangerous. CPSC is aware of at least two deaths associated with tube kiting this year. A 33-year-old Texas man was killed in late April 2006 while tube kiting, and a 42-year-old man died from injuries associated with tube kiting on June 26, 2006 in Wisconsin.

CPSC is also aware of 12 serious injuries associated with tube kiting. The injuries include a broken neck, punctured lung, broken ribs, broken femur, chest and back injuries, and facial injuries, such as jaw fractures. A 14-year-old girl who was tube kiting lost consciousness when it fell about 15 feet and struck the water.

Tube kites are very large, sometimes round, inflatable water devices that can be more than 10 feet in diameter. The tube is hooked to the back of a boat by a tow rope, and the tube rider pulls back on a rope as the boat travels at speeds between 25 and 35 miles per hour. The ride begins when the tube is lifted into the air trailing the boat. Possible reasons for incidents and injuries include: 1) rider's difficulty in controlling the tube, 2) boat operator inexperience, and 3) how the tube reacts in certain weather conditions. The conditions of highest concern are wind gusts that can cause the tube to spin out of control, or sudden slowing or stopping by the boat operator, which can cause the tube to nose dive into the water. In some cases, the sudden stopping of the boat might cause the tube rider to continue past the boat and hit it or hit other boats or stationary objects, such as a bridge.

The National Park Service has banned the inflatable devices in at least one of its parks, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which includes Lake Powell where there have been at least four serious injuries.