We Might Have a Thai Princess to Thank For Water Tubing

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As the lazy days of summer meander on, you might find yourself partaking in one of its perfect pastimes: water tubing. Whether you’re being towed behind a boat or free-floating down a river with a beer in hand, you have a surprising figure to thank for your summer fun. Thai Princess Chumbhot of Nagar Svarga is credited with popularizing the sport in the mid-20th century.

While water tubing did occur long before the Princess took up the practice, TIME credits her with making it all the rage. What began as a social event for her and her friends turned lucrative when she started charging members of the public five baht to get into her estate and five to rent a tube. (The accomplished royal was also vice president of a bank, a major donor to Bangkok's Chulalongkorn Hospital, curated a self-made palace museum, and supported many Thai artists.)

From a 1965 Sports Illustrated story:

Shown on these pages is what happened when the ebullient princess brought 100 or more old inner tubes to her estate in the Chong Lom valley and invited the neighbors in to ride them down the river. There is only one drawback to the joys of tubing on Princess Chumbhot's estate. A murderous bandit chieftain named Tiger Sangat has set up headquarters in a far corner of her acres, which makes it necessary for two armed guards to keep the princess company wherever she goes. For them it is often a pleasantly cool duty.

And later on: "… when news of the fun got out in a Siamese TV show, people began flocking to southern Nakhon Nayok province by the hundreds, hoping to join in."

The claim to water-tube-inventing fame doesn’t solely belong to the Princess; TIME also gives a tip of the hat to David Breault, a nightclub owner who organized "floating parties" on Somerset, Wisconsin’s Apple River in the '40s. The excursions were free, but Breault told LIFE that they resulted in big business for his Terrance Night Club.

[h/t TIME]

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