The Checkout

Tube Kiting Safety Alert

Just before the holiday weekend, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a safety warning about the new but increasingly popular water sport of tube kiting--in which a person flies across water in a large inflatable tube (sometimes 10 feet or more in diameter) that is drawn by a boat traveling between 25 and 35 miles per hour. (You can see how this works by watching some of the videos at you have to admit it does look like a lot of fun.)

But the agency says tube kiting is "extremely dangerous." The agency said it knows of at least two deaths associated with tube kiting this year and 12 serious injuries, including a broken neck, punctured lung, broken ribs, broken femur, chest and back injuries and facial injuries.

The CPSC said it is investigating two versions of kite tubes to see if there is a significant product hazard. That's a very unusual admission for the agency which usually doesn't announce its investigations until they are completed. But spokeswoman Julie Vallese said the agency believed that it needed to issue its alert "in advance of the holiday weekend when people are out in water" and may be tempted to use this product.

According to the CPSC, the injuries may occur from the rider's difficulty in controlling the tube, the boat operator's inexperience and the reaction of the tube in certain weather conditions. The agency is particularly concerned about 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 other boats or stationary objects, such as a bridge."

While there are warning labels on the products, most of these are for the boat operator. The ones for the riders are more limited, such as: "Only go as high as you're willing to fall."

Tube kites, mostly triangular in shape, were first sold in 2003. In 2005, the Wego Kite Tube--a 10-foot diameter model made by SportsStuff that sells for about $600--was introduced. Most of the accidents the CPSC is investigating have occurred in the past year.

The tubes have been banned in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, which includes Lake Powell, where there have been at least four serious injuries.

Michael Beckelman, an attorney for SportsStuff, said the company believes all of its products are safe if they are used responsibly and in accordance with the provided instructions. He said the company declined to comment specifically on the CPSC investigation.

By  |  June 30, 2006; 10:53 AM ET Consumer Alerts
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I've gone tubing on smaller intertubes that don't fly up so high. I can't decide if this looks more dangerous or safer. Looks fun, though.

Posted by: Justin | July 3, 2006 10:10 AM

Typical overreaction. If used improperly, it can be dangerous - it says so right on the box.

Adults are supposed to be able to make their own decisions on what risks they are willing to take. Banning these toys because they can be dangerous in some conditions is just wrong.

Posted by: Jim | July 5, 2006 10:07 PM

no its not fun this wego kite tube is very unstable please dont use send it back get your money back i pulled a young man the kite went up and turned and slmmed him into water . cut his face bad and broke his back. please be careful dont use...

Posted by: jack | July 6, 2006 4:11 PM

Here are a few photos from my smack down on the Kite Tube Saturday. After flying the but 25-30 feet in the air, it inverted and whipped me into the water as we were going 40mph. Luckily, I curled into a ball and have a lot of extra padding in my butt. I was knocked unconscious and floating face down until I was pulled out of the water by the driver Jim Bennett. I am fine, some bruising, 2 broken ribs and a punctured lung. All will heal. I am sending the tube back. It certainly wasn't stable when it was flying. Of all the sports I have tried (wake boarding, snow boarding, water skiing, barefooting, knee boarding, intertubing, snow skiing, kite boarding, wind sailing, parasailing and others), this was the most dangerous and is going to kill someone. Luckily, it wasn't my time...

I started to research this and 2 people have died in the first 60 days since the product was released. There are many many injuries and some are much worse than mine. I am going to to try to get this off the market before more people die. here are a few and a video of someone flying off it...

Posted by: bill church | July 10, 2006 8:35 AM

I tried the kite tube last April. At once I was at 30ft in the air with no warning; the tube became unstable and dived. I ended up in the hospital with a fractured femur in four places, concussion, and a week's stay with heavy meds. I had to have emergency surgery in order to save the use of my left arm. I still can't feel it much at all. Sports stuff still won't take the tube back. I'm permanently disfigured because of this "safe" product. Now I am looking for an attorney.

Posted by: | July 10, 2006 2:16 PM

Yeah, I used the kite tube. It was alot of fun and still is, but it is VERY unstable once you leave the water. It can glide alright for a little while, then any kind of gust or crosswind and you get hammered. I took a dive from about 30-35 feet at 40 mph and blacked out when I hit the water. Luckily, the only result was bruised lungs and coughing up some blood.

Posted by: Nick Waninger | July 13, 2006 12:38 PM

It seems that most of the fuss is being made over this Sportstuff tube. Does anyone have any information on the Sevylor Mantaray that also flies? Every video, every comment and every article I have read on this new hobby has been about the same item.
Also, I have to wonder how many people honestly thought a round object floating in the air is safe. I mean, this thing doesn't have wings, doesn't have stabilizers, nor does it spin to give gyroscopic stabilization, or anything else.
Moreover, 2 comments above readily admit that they were not using the product in the manner which was intended (2 comments refer to going 40 MPH) when the instruction clearly say, don't exceed 25 until you are comfortable operating the thing. No wonder Sportstuff is willing to fight. If everyone shows up to the court room and says,"Yeah, we flew this thing on a 60 foot rope @ 40 MPH", what do you think the judge will say?
I haven't tried it yet, but I am certainly planning on it. After all, I have gotten just as seriously hurt on a regular tube.

Posted by: Anonymous | July 19, 2006 3:22 PM

CJ Says:

July 26th, 2006 at 9:33 pm




Burlington Man's Death In Kite Tubing Accident Spurs New Concerns

It was supposed to be the latest and greatest thing he'd ever done. It wound up being the last and the deadliest. A Burlington man is believed to be the first person in Ontario killed practicing the new extreme sport of kite tubing. The craze involves standing on an inflated disc shaped object being towed behind a boat. It soars into the air on gusts of wind and then comes down again, a sort of airborne water skiing.

But there's no harness or seatbelt, and it depends solely on the rider hanging on to a tow rope.

That's how Glen Buttigieg thought it was supposed to work. But something went terribly wrong on Tuesday when the 38-year-old and his friends ventured out on a Guelph lake to try their expensive new toy.

Buttigieg's device went into a sudden dive and crashed into the water, leaving him with a broken neck and brain injuries that proved fatal.

His best friend Mike Langlais was waiting for his own turn on the contraption and couldn't believe what he saw.
"I gave him mouth to mouth and he didn't come to," he remembers, with a quiver in his voice. "So I gave him CPR and he woke up again. But he was paralyzed by then, he couldn't move anymore."
The still stunned Langlais swears all his pals read and followed the directions, and they thought there was something wrong with the equipment.
"My first thought was this is defective, this kite shouldn't be able to do this, to lose its airflow like that."
This is the first season kite tubes are being sold in Ontario, and they're reported to be moving well, despite the price tag of $500-$700.
But while we may not be all that familiar with them here, it's a different story in the U.S. Some states have already banned the treacherous toy and the Toronto Police Marine Unit is hoping to see that same precaution followed here.
"I don't think there is any safe way of riding it," complains P.C. Gary Gibson. "There doesn't appear to be any kind of controls on it to control the lift or control the steering of it in the air."
There are no legal requirements to get training and while the package comes with a how-to DVD, it doesn't recommend wearing a helmet.
Langlais is preparing to attend his pal's funeral on Saturday and can't believe he lost his life over something so senseless. He supports the idea of a ban, too, so that no one ever has to go through what he did.
"Had we known it was this unsafe or that fast or could do the things that it did, I don't think we would ever would have been on it," he laments.
And he has this warning for parents or adults thinking about getting one of their own.
"Don't use these kites," he pleads. "Whoever purchased them, don't take it out of the box, don't use it, don't let you're children on it, it's far too dangerous."

The tragedy has already led to another casualty that will leave Buttigieg's mother unable to attend her own son's funeral. After learning about the death of her only child, she suffered a massive heart attack and remains in hospital.

Posted by: CJ | July 31, 2006 4:28 PM

I was kite tubing on June 25. Got comfortable with the tube and flew up about 10 feet. The tube violently slashed left and right and threw me. Needless to say, I dislocated my right shoulder and completly tore of my labrum, which is the cartlige/muscle that basically holds the shoulder together. I went into shock. the pain was terrible. Its been six weeks from the accident... have surgery scheduled in Sept. PLEASE RETURN YOUR TUBE IMMEDIATLY

Posted by: Burton | August 4, 2006 3:21 PM

What moron would go 40MPH first day out??? Or, go fast enough to stick this thing 'way' up in the air the first day, must less the first time? Anyone with common sense would start at a low speed and learn to use these correctly...

Heck, why not give the driver a shot of Tequila while you're at it?

Posted by: Rick Lossner | August 8, 2006 12:09 AM

Glen Buttigieg was a dear friend to many. I personally have know Glen since 1989. Glen was a great exersice rider, and horseman. Glen loved the water and his boat and his friends. For years after work they would all go boating and have good times on the water. In Canada and in Florida.
I went to Glens funeral and I have to day it was the saddest funeral I ever attended. It is unbelivable that this kite tube took Glens life. He was 38 and had his whole life ahead of him. A ban needs to be put on these before other people get injured or die. Glen will be saddly missed by his family and friends and his extended family at the race track. We will always remember him and the good times we all shared with Glen. May Glen's death bring awarness to all who kite tube.

Posted by: Mini McTague | August 10, 2006 3:35 PM

Check out my tight kite tube pics.

Please don't ban this. That isn't fair for the people who dont crash. I've been doing it for nearly 4 months and have only crashed due to my fault of going no handed. I have not fallen yet while flying in the air. It helps to have a mature driver who has some practice.

Posted by: Nick Murrey | August 15, 2006 7:08 PM

Hi, im Tommy, some people know me as Tommy, and i like the name TOmmy cause it soots me, TOmmy is a great name and i think you all should have it...or die! me and my friends thought it would be funny to tie my dog to this tube....bad idea! after about 10seconds of spinning in the air he came down and his legs shot up into his face...he was never spade so she was probable horney when it happend

Posted by: Tommy | September 27, 2006 3:30 PM

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