What is Parasailing?
Parasailing allows you to soar through the sky over an open body of water. Parasailers glide over an open body of water, attached to a boat and parachute via a seat like harness. The average person parasails under the guidance of an instructor, often in a group setting. It may seem scary or daunting, but many people find it relaxing and mesmerizing once they're up in the air.
Parasailing got its origin from NASA military training in the 1960s when experts wanted to teach recruits how to control a parachute without using planes. Soldiers would tow chutes with a moving vehicle to gain traction. In 1974, Mark McCulloh built on the idea by creating a winch system that could safely reel a parasailer away from or back towards the boat, a design he called the winch boat. From there, parasailing became a popular commercial experience enjoyed by beachgoers globally.
The average person will parasail with the help of instructors, especially if they're beginners. People parasail on large bodies of water like lakes or the ocean with sufficient space to drive the boat and open skies for the parachute. Clear skies and strong winds are key to a long, enjoyable ride with views. Parasailing takes place all over the world, but it's especially popular on the coasts of North and South America.
Parasailing equipment is usually provided by the guide and boat captain, as most parasailers won't have the resources or training to parasail alone. A winch system connects the parasailer to the boat, while a harness and tow bar connect to the parasail wing. Whether ascending in solo or in a group, make sure to stay within the threshold of minimum and maximum weight capacities for a parasailing ride. A helmet and life vest also ensure safety in case of an accident.
Here is the essential parasailing equipment you should have:
- Life vest
- Parachute/Parasail wing
- Tow bar
- Winch system
Part of parasailing's popularity is its accessibility, as it's not incredibly strenuous or demanding in athletic ability. Once in the sky, parasailing is simple and easy to enjoy-- just sit back and soak in the view. The boat captain does most of the complex work, navigating the water at the appropriate speed against the wind to keep the flyers afloat while providing the proper amount of towline. Parasailers typically fly from 200-400 feet at the lowest, to 800-1200 feet at the highest.
Rules and Regulations
Most parasailers have an instructor to safely guide them through their experience, but it's good to know what to expect before launching. Parasailers should ensure sufficient space with no obstructions that might interfere with the parachute. Guides should know maritime laws that apply to parasailing regarding traffic, safety regulations, and more. Make sure to research your parasailing venue beforehand, as subpar or out of date equipment is the primary cause for paragliding accidents.
Here are the most important parasailing rules you should know:
- Wear a properly fastened life jacket and helmet
- Never parasail in stormy weather conditions
- Be sure to stay within the weight threshold between minimum and maximum capacity
- Never attempt to parasail in over trafficked waters
- Do not tug at or attempt to undo the harness once in the sky
Techniques for Launch
Parasailers can choose to ascend solo, in a pair, or even in a small group within the weight capacity of the ride. The most common and convenient way to launch is from the ship deck itself, where the ship builds launch momentum. Launches can also be made from the shore, with the parasailer stepping towards the water for takeoff. The boat captain will navigate against the grain of the wind at an appropriate speed for the parasailer to ascend.
Here are the most important parasailing strategies you should know:
- Single harness
- Double harness (Two people)
- Tandem bar harness (Several people)
- Launch from ship deck
- Launch from shore
Here is the common lingo and slang in parasailing:
- Parascend: When the parachute ascends
- Flight zone: The area over the water which has been selected for a parasailing ride
- Moored vehicle: The moving boat or vehicle which tows the parasailer
- Tow bar: The bar that the parasailer's harness is tethered to
- Towline: The long polyester rope attaching the parasailer to the boat
- Winch system: The system on the boat which winds, unwinds, and brakes your towline
As a casual sport meant for individual enjoyment more than competitive athleticism, parasailing doesn't have too many stars. However, many people are noteworthy for paving the way for this accessible, enjoyable activity! Pierre-Marcel Lemoigne is famous for inventing the type of easy-ascension parachute which would warp into the modern parasailing wing. Mark McCulloh is famous for helping to modernize and formalize the winch system, which is integral to safe and easy parasailing.
Here are the most famous parasailing players you should know:
- Pierre-Marcel Lemoigne
- Mark McCulloh
- Brian Gaskin
- Matthew Dvorak
Events and Competitions
Venues for parasailing can be found on coasts worldwide, especially in tropical climates. It's offered regularly at many beaches, though it's also dependent upon good weather conditions. Events that include parasailing often coincide with beach festivals, where the sport becomes something of a thrill ride for beachgoers.
Here are the most popular tournaments in parasailing:
- Cape Town: Cape Town is an excellent place to go parasailing, with scenic mountains and beaches to enjoy
- Daytona Beach Parasail: Daytona Beach Parasail is a famous parasailing venue hit up by spring breakers
- Key West Parasailing : The Key West is a popular parasailing choice for good reason. Enjoy warm weather, stunning beaches, clear blue waters.
What does parasailing feel like?
Some people expect parasailing to feel like a roller coaster, but fear not! It's a steady, peaceful ride after launch. Many find it surprisingly relaxing.
Can I parasail with more than one person?
Yes, most parasailing venues provide equipment that allows parasailing as a pair, or even a small group. Multiple harnesses can attach to a wide tow bar. Most parasailing rides can support a maximum weight of around 450 pounds.
Can I steer the parachute?
Parasailers are tethered to the boat, so you don't have a full range of movement. The boat captain does the steering for you in a predetermined flight zone.
Do I have to know how to swim to go parasailing?
It's never a bad idea to know how to swim, but parasailing does not require it. Participants will be reeled back into the boat with the winch system, so they'll never have to touch the water in a parasailing session. In case of an accidental fall, they also wear a life vest.