The Great Float Trip Debate: Rafts Versus Tubes

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Before we get into the debate, I need to point out that I enjoy floating anywhere. However, when I moved to Texas I was surprised to find that the way they floated had one, basic and important fundamental difference from my home state of Missouri. Either way I’m not one to ever turn down an opportunity to drink. I mean, I’d participate in a drive by if they were serving drinks in the backseat. As I finish writing that previous sentence I am disturbed by its honesty. I’d be more likely to take part in a murder if the event had cocktails. I think I have a problem. Thank God that liquor is readily available to the public. If this were the 1920s, I’d probably have blown a bootlegger for a barrel of hooch at this point in my life.

“So, Nancy-boy, ya got the shakes and need a fixin’? Well my cucumber needs a picklin’. Hop to it.”

Where was I before I explored that dark corner of my mind? Right, there is a fundamental difference between floating in Missouri and floating in Texas, and that difference makes floating in Texas sort of a bitch, and kind of terrifying. Here in Austin, I’ve brought this up to native Texans before. Discussed it at length even, with seasoned alcoholics who have drunkenly navigated the empty beer can littered waters of the Guadalupe, the Comal, and the Brazos. They disagreed. They called me crazy.

“How is it a bitch? You sit there and drink on the water,” they said.

“But do you?” I asked. “DO YOU!?!”

“Yes,” they would always reply flatly before they walked away to start a much more interesting conversation somewhere else.

In theory, this looks like fun:

HorseshoeLoopGuadalupeRiverCanyonLakeTxTubeHaus

Floating on a tube is a torn scrotum waiting to happen.

In reality, floating a river in a tube is a logistical nightmare, especially after you’ve gotten drunk, which for me is usually before I’ve even touched water. You aren’t really floating, that implies ease. What you’re really doing is navigating and surviving. For starters, you’re by yourself in terms of movement, so it’s easy to get separated from your friends. Ever get blackout and wander away from your group at the bar and out into the street? That sucks a thousand times worse when it happens on a river. They’re either ahead of you or behind, and if you’re like me, you always guess wrong. Yes, your group can tie all the tubes together, but that’s work, and keeping them together is work. I came to get drunk, not be a crewmember in a redneck America’s Cup.

Another problem is that you have to corral your cooler, and that, in most cases, you’re going to have serious size limitation issues because of what you’re floating on, which means less booze. Less booze is bad. Obviously you could get another tube for your cooler, or get a special cooler tube at the store, but fuck having to spend more money just to keep track of your accessories, and you still have to hold on to it either way. The first time I floated the Brazos, I had a Styrofoam cooler floating next to me the entire time, stocked full of Bud Lights. I basically couldn’t take my hand off it or it would float away, which is the same for any cooler. When we hit rapids I had to protect the thing like it contained a heart destined to be transplanted into my dying mother. If it had gotten wrecked on a rock or submerged branch, my whole day would have been ruined. There goes all my booze, fuck me. Oh, and here comes an overzealous river patrol officer to give me a ticket for littering because pieces of my destroyed cooler are already choking the 900th generation of fish that went retarded from having gestated in a river that is 25% spilled Keystone Light and 30% pee. Fetal alcohol syndrome for fish: it’s a thing, probably. It’s definitely something PETA is pissed about whether or not it’s real.

Let’s go back to the submerged branches and rocks, because they are BY FAR the worst part about floating in Texas, or on a tube in general. Floating on a tube is a torn scrotum waiting to happen. Your nuts are out there just begging to be mauled by the jagged branches of a limb some fat asshole did a rope swing from in the late ’90s, ripping it from the tree and into the river. You are exposed. The agony of having my nutsack speared on a branch, hooking me as the current tries to pull me downstream, is enough to keep me away from tubes and rivers and trees forever. You are also, at any given moment, susceptible to getting an aforementioned tree branch or pointed rock straight up your asshole. Violent sodomy and genital maulings shouldn’t be two potential outcomes of what one would classify as a relaxing afternoon.

And keep in mind, these are all things you have to deal with while completely shitfaced drunk.

So why do I like floating better in Missouri? We do it on whitewater rafts, that’s why. Check this shit out:

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The difference between floating on a tube and floating on a raft is the difference between taking a road trip in a Smart Car or on a party bus. You can throw GIANT coolers into the raft, three or four at a time. You don’t have to worry about your trash, because they come equipped with trash bags. You can invite ladies onto your raft instead of saying, “Hey come awkwardly float next to me while we flirt with each other in incredibly unflattering and uncomfortable positions.” You can fucking rage on a raft, and you can do it worry free, unless you’re underage or can’t swim or susceptible to alcohol poisoning and heat strokes or something, then you’re screwed no matter where you float. You can rage on a tube as well you say? Fair, but not as hard as you can on a raft. End of story.

Violent sodomy and genital maulings shouldn’t be two potential outcomes of what one would classify as a relaxing afternoon.

Make no mistake, this isn’t an argument over which state is better to float in, Texas or Missouri. While I HEAVILY favor Missouri’s preferred method of flotation, there is a lot to like about both Texas and Missouri floats. Texas floats are much easier to make into a day trip, which is nice. You aren’t very far from Austin and you’re basically in San Marcos depending on the river you float. Both towns are far more fun than the secluded backwoods berg of Steeleville, Missouri, where the majority of Missouri float trips take place. Yes, Steeleville is every bit as meth-y as it sounds. I’ve done a day trip float in Steeleville, and while it was a blast, getting back and forth from St. Louis was a hassle. Missouri float trips are far more often done campout style over a weekend, either at one of the many resort campsites or in a cabin. That is always fun, and always a shitshow. Again, both have positives, that’s not really the discussion.

Still, I urge the float trip companies and floaters of Texas to change their ways. Ditch the tubes and switch to rafts. Do it for the sake of fun, but most importantly do it for the sake of my frightened, quivering balls. They don’t deserve that kind of stress, especially not when they’re supposed to be relaxing.

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