10 tips & tricks for enjoying the ride
Each year, thousands of thrill-seekers grab inner tubes for a float in the cool, spring-fed waters of the Comal River. It’s a laid-back, leisurely experience – that is, until you get to the famous tube chute.
The tube chute is like a concrete water slide that shoots tubers around a dam and into the river below. It’s exhilarating and fun if you’re prepared for it. With a few tips, it can be a highlight of any float instead of an unexpected spill into fast-moving water.
“We try to let people know this is a real river. You’re not getting onto a choreographed ride at a water park,” said Jeremy Raider, general manager of 444 Tubing, one of the many river outfitters serving visitors to the Comal with inner tube rentals, shuttle rides and more.
“Tubers have a really great time if they’re educated on what to expect,” he said. “If you feel confident about going through the chute and are a good swimmer, it’s a lot of fun.”
Make it a get-away and stay at any of these fun, unique hotels, homes and condos—some right on the river—to take full advantage of fun-in-the sun on the Comal River while following these ten top tips for successfully navigating the tube chute.
1. Know how to swim.
If you don’t know how to swim, cool off at a water park or splash pad instead of the river. Weak swimmers must use life jackets, available at any outfitter or for free along the river before the tube chute. While there are lifeguards on duty daily during the summer at the bottom of the tube chute, being able to swim is essential.
“It’s a class 2 river rapid,” Raider said. “That means the chances of you getting dumped out of your tube are pretty high. We want to make sure everyone who goes down it is a great swimmer.”
2. Ride low through the chute.
When going through the tube chute, make sure your rear end is low in the center of your tube so you’re not top-heavy. That will help prevent flipping when you hit the rushing waters at the end of the chute.
3. Don’t tie your tubes together.
Some groups of tubers try to create a flotilla by connecting all the tubes in their party with rope. This greatly increases your chance of flipping and being trapped under a mass of tubes in the rushing water at the bottom of the chute.
4. Leave young children at home.
Floating the river is for children ages 4 and up. For safety reasons, most outfitters will not allow children younger than that to float. In addition, weekends and holidays can be very crowded, with a decidedly adult audience. The best days for families to float are Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, when the river is less crowded and it’s easier to find free parking, Raider said.
5. Wear river shoes.
The Comal River is a natural waterway, with rocks, debris, mud and other natural elements. Protect your feet with river shoes. Flip-flops are likely to get lost or knocked off in the rush of the tube chute, and the concrete will be hot in summer when you exit the river.
6. Escape the eddy.
In the fast-moving water at the base of the tube chute, it’s possible to get swept into an eddy that takes you into a swirling pool of water instead of letting you continue down the river. If that happens, don’t panic. Paddle toward the stairs on the riverbank and exit with your tube, then get back in past the eddy further down the river.
7. Know the rules of the river.
There are a few things to know before you go to avoid facing a hefty fine: do not take disposable containers of any kind, including cans, glass, foam containers (which means no convenience store drink cups or Styrofoam coolers), no volume drinking devices, no containers under 5 fluid ounces (such as Jell-O shot containers). And, of course, no littering. Law enforcement officers patrol the river and will ticket tubers who break the rules, so plan ahead to stay on the right side of the law.
8. Leave your expensive items at home.
It’s not uncommon for tubes to flip at the bottom of the chute. That means that whatever items are not secure will end up in the water. This is not the place for $200 sunglasses or expensive speakers. Take steps to protect your phone and keys. If you do flip your tube in the chute area, there are often divers that you can hire to find your stuff, but there’s no guarantee that you’ll get your valuables back – and in the condition they were before they went in the river.
9. When in doubt, walk around the tube chute.
If you’re not sure a trip through the tube chute is for you, you can easily walk around it. Signage warns tubers that the chute is coming up and points to the stairs on the right side of the river. Exit with your tube there (use the handrails as the stairs may be slippery) and follow the path along the riverbank to a spot past the tube chute where you can re-enter the river. This is a great option for weaker swimmers, small children and anyone who wants to avoid the possibility of tipping over.
10. Have fun!
For those who know what to expect, floating the Comal and navigating the tube chute is an iconic Texas summer experience. Your river outfitter is there to help ensure that you’re ready for an enjoyable, memorable time on the river.
“As outfitters, our number one job is education and safety,” Raider said. “If I educate you on what to expect at that chute and the rest of the river trip, then everyone’s happier and safer.”
Join us #InNewBraunfels for a great experience on the river or at any of our historic city’s great activities and attractions! Plan your next New Braunfels adventure at https://www.playinnewbraunfels.com.