Tubing down the Cowichan river may be quite hazardous, and while we don't actually recommend it, if you choose to do so we offer you this advice: What to Bring and How to Tube.
What to bring:
Water shoes are necessary for getting in and out of the river over the sharp rocks (if they can fall off--they will! so tie them to your tube) note: laces can get caught on rocks and can be very hazardous so, do not wear sneakers.
Helmets be reasonable...you cannot prevent your head from smacking hard against the rocks, the professional kayakers in the river always wear helmets and they are very cool!! At least consider wearing them through the rapid parts, and tie them to your tube for the calm stuff. (any sport helmet will help)
Wetsuits "crazy!" you say...but, in and out of the water, in and out of the sun and shade, with a good river wind can be pretty chilly, you are always comfortable in a wetsuit, more buoyant, and they save your skin from sun and from abrasions against the rocks...
Water--not booze, leave hydrated, or bring a water bottle tied to your tube handle, its amazing how thirsty you can get while tubing...and boozing looks like fun, but that where the trouble really begins....
TUBES--PFD Personal flotation device (lifejacket)
NEVER exceed your personal comfort level, you must be an experienced and confident swimmer to be on or near the water. CSA approved PFD's are always highly recommended. NOT TOYS, a good heavy duty tube made for river tubing is the best bet. Thin-vinyl tubes, dinghy-boats, air-mattresses are made for lakes, and are not suitable for tubing. They will invariably leave you stranded on the side of the meandering river where you will have to walk—sometimes quite a distance, thru brush and forest back to the road—good thing you have your shoes!! The ever popular black vehicle inner-tubes are notorious for popping when subjected to sunshine and rocks, they easily become riverside waste. It is a wise environmental choice to rent a sturdy, definitely reusable, tube.
Shuttle vehicle Indeed! How do you plan to get back to your vehicle after the ride is over? Usually this requires some figuring out, especially as your group gets larger & if you are transporting your own tubes. For those who get a headache thinking about such things here it is in 2 simple steps:
- go to your launch, leave your tubes and all extra passengers, do not leave anything you do not wish to risk in the water
- drivers take all cars, with towels in them--to your destination. Stash your keys in the forest. All drivers get in one car and return upstream.
- **If you are using Cowichantubing.com to deliver your tubes and provide a shuttle, we will escort your car to the end and shuttle you to your desired launch, our tubes have large valves and can be quickly deflated and easily be returned on your way back towards Duncan.
How to Tube
This might seem obvious, but some instructions are good for novices. Many people treat tubing as a passive activity, but the safety is highly increased if you treat it as an active sport.
Find a position in the tube which will enable your arms to dangle in the water, then continuously use your hands as gentle paddles to keep yourself in the main flow. If you need to get somewhere quick, put your back towards your goal, dig your arms in DEEPLY and stroke backwards towards your destination.
When heading into a rapid, try to go through feet first, and direct yourself with your paddle-hands until it becomes absolutely necessary to hang on to your tube--then, "become one with your tube".
What ever way you get turned, keep your eyes downstream to see what's coming and counterbalance.
If you find yourself about to flip-over, hang on to your tube with one hand as best you can, fall flat like a starfish and do not panic, you will pop up in less that 5 seconds (it helps to count), if you find you do not have your tube in your hand, immediately swim toward it--it may not be possible to get back on, but hang on in case you encounter another rapid--it can still pull you safely through.
Pull over and wait for your group to gather together at the base of each rapid. Mainly, remember, Lift your bum and have fun!!