A Beginner’s Guide to Parasailing

Parasailing, a captivating adventure that combines the serenity of flight with the thrill of watersports, offers a unique way to embrace the beauty of nature from a whole new perspective. Whether you’re a thrill-seeker seeking an adrenaline rush or an adventurer looking to unlock a fresh realm of excitement, parasailing is an activity that will leave you with unforgettable memories and a sense of awe. Not to mention, it’s one of the most accessible – no skill, training, or any kind of license is needed for you to do it. In this article, learn what you need to know before taking off for your first parasailing experience.

What is Parasailing?

Parasailing, or parakiting or parascending, is a recreational activity involving being towed behind a boat while attached to a parachute-like canopy. It allows participants to experience the feeling of flying and enjoy aerial views of the surroundings. The basic setup involves a specially designed parasail wing, also known as a canopy, which resembles a parachute but is modified for gliding through the air rather than descending slowly. The canopy is connected to a harness, which the participant wears.

To engage in parasailing, a person is typically harnessed securely to the parasail wing and then lifted into the air as the boat accelerates. The boat’s speed generates enough lift for the parasailer to ascend and soar above the water. Anyone who wants to parasail is not required to have any prior experience or training since the activity is usually done under the guidance of experienced professionals.

Parasailing is popular in beachside or waterfront destinations, where the combination of ocean or lake views and the thrill of flying can create a unique and exhilarating experience. It provides a chance to enjoy panoramic vistas, feel the rush of wind, and experience a sense of freedom while floating in the sky.

Safety measures are essential in parasailing to ensure a secure and enjoyable experience. Operators typically follow strict guidelines, including checking weather conditions, using appropriate equipment, and providing instructions to participants. Choosing reputable operators who prioritize safety and have well-maintained equipment is essential.

Parasailing vs. Paragliding

Paragliding and parasailing are two distinct activities that involve flying and being suspended in the air using parachute-like equipment, but they differ in several key aspects:

1. Equipment

Paragliding utilizes a paraglider, which is a foot-launched, free-flying aircraft. The paraglider is a flexible wing made of fabric consisting of numerous interconnected cells. It is designed for gliding and soaring through the air. On the other hand, parasailing employs a parasail wing, also known as a canopy, which resembles a parachute. The parasail wing is typically towed behind a boat or a vehicle and is not meant for free flight.

2. Launch and Flight

In paragliding, participants launch themselves from elevated sites such as hills or mountains by running forward and inflating the paraglider. Once airborne, paragliders rely on wind currents and thermals to maintain flight and gain altitude. Paragliders can travel long distances and have more maneuverability and control over their flight path.

In parasailing, participants are lifted into the air by a motorized boat. The parasail wing is attached to a towline, and as the boat moves forward, it generates lift, allowing the participant to ascend. Parasailing is typically done over bodies of water, and the movement of the boat determines the flight path. Participants in parasailing have limited control over their direction and cannot freely navigate or travel long distances like paragliders.

3. Solo vs. Tandem

Paragliding can be done solo or in tandem. Solo paragliding involves a single participant operating and controlling the paraglider independently. Tandem paragliding involves a certified pilot who flies with a passenger, allowing them to experience paragliding without needing any training or experience.

Parasailing, on the other hand, is predominantly done in tandem. Participants are typically accompanied by trained professionals who control the equipment and ensure safety during the flight. The participant is harnessed to the parasail wing while the pilot or boat operator controls the boat and the flight parameters.

4. Duration and Altitude

Paragliding flights can last for several hours, depending on the weather conditions and the skills of the pilot. Paragliders can gain significant altitude and stay aloft for extended periods, making it possible to cover considerable distances.

In contrast, parasailing flights are relatively shorter and generally range from 10 to 20 minutes. The altitude achieved in parasailing is limited, usually around a few hundred feet above the ground or water.

While both paragliding and parasailing offer unique flying experiences, paragliding provides a more immersive and independent flight, while parasailing offers a thrilling ride and aerial views primarily in a controlled and tandem setting.

5. Safety

Paragliding is more dangerous than parasailing due to greater risks of accidents during takeoff and landing. Meanwhile, parasailing is relatively safer because the participant is being towed by the boat.

Why Try Parasailing

There are so many reasons why you may want to try parasailing. It offers several benefits that attract people to participate in this exhilarating activity, such as:

A thrilling experience – Parasailing provides a thrilling and unique experience of soaring through the air like a bird. It offers a sense of freedom and the opportunity to enjoy the sensation of flight without needing specialized training or equipment.

Breathtaking views – From high above, parasailers can enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Whether it’s a stunning coastline, crystal-clear waters, or scenic mountains, parasailing allows participants to take in picturesque views that may not be accessible from the ground. You will get to see what drone cameras see but with your own eyes!

Adrenaline rush – Parasailing can provide an adrenaline rush as participants are lifted into the air and experience the excitement of being suspended high above the ground or water. It offers a sense of adventure and an opportunity to step out of one’s comfort zone.

Minimal physical exertion – Unlike activities such as paragliding or skydiving that require significant physical effort or training, parasailing requires relatively little physical exertion. Participants can enjoy the thrill of flying without the need for specialized skills or fitness levels.

Accessible to most individuals – Parasailing is generally accessible to a wide range of individuals, including children and older adults, as long as they meet weight and health requirements. They don’t need any pre-requisite skills like being able to swim or dive. It provides an opportunity for people of different ages and abilities to experience the joy of flying.

Shared experience – Parasailing can be done in tandem, allowing participants to share the experience with a friend, family member, or partner. It can create lasting memories and strengthen bonds through a shared adventure.

Unique perspective – Parasailing offers a unique perspective of the surroundings from an elevated vantage point. Seeing the world from above can provide a fresh perspective, allowing participants to appreciate the beauty and vastness of their surroundings in a new way.

Relaxation and serenity – While parasailing can be thrilling, it also offers moments of tranquility as participants glide through the air. The peacefulness and serenity of being high above the ground can provide a calming and rejuvenating experience.

History of Parasailing

The history of parasailing can be traced back to the 1960s when a French engineer named Pierre-Marcel Lemoigne invented the concept of “parascending.” Lemoigne’s invention aimed to allow people to experience the sensation of flying without the need for an aircraft. His design involved a parachute-like canopy attached to a towline, which was then pulled by a vehicle on land.

The term “parasailing” was coined in the 1970s when an American inventor named Mark McCulloh developed a modified version of Lemoigne’s concept. McCulloh introduced the use of a motorized boat as the towing vehicle, enabling participants to be lifted off the ground and experience soaring through the air while being harnessed to the parasail wing.

Parasailing gained popularity as a recreational activity throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Its appeal grew due to its thrilling experience, combined with the ability to enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding landscape from above. The sport spread to various beach destinations around the world, attracting adventurers and tourists seeking an adrenaline-pumping experience.

Over time, parasailing equipment and techniques have evolved to enhance safety and performance. Modern parasails are constructed with lightweight and durable materials designed for optimal aerodynamics and stability. Safety measures have been implemented, such as the use of harnesses, multiple attachment points, and emergency release systems to ensure the well-being of participants.

Today, parasailing has become a well-established recreational activity in coastal areas and popular tourist destinations worldwide. It continues to captivate people with the sensation of flight, the breathtaking views, and the exhilarating feeling of being suspended high above the ground.

Different Types of Parasailing

There are different types of parasailing, each offering unique variations in the way the activity is performed. Here are some common types of parasailing that are done above water:

1. Tandem parasailing – In this form of parasailing, two people are attached to the same parasail and towed together behind the boat. This is the most common type of boat parasailing and is often done by couples or friends who want to share the experience.

2. Solo parasailing – A single person is attached to a parasail and towed behind the boat alone. This is a popular option for solo travelers or those who want to enjoy the thrill of parasailing on their own.

3. Winch parasailing – In winch boat parasailing, a winch system is used instead of a motorized boat to control the ascent and descent of the parasailer. The winch is usually mounted on the boat and operates with a reel system. It allows for precise control of the towline, enabling the parasailer to be lifted and lowered from the boat more easily without needing high-speed towing. It’s a great option for those who are not comfortable with being towed behind a boat.

4. High-altitude parasailing – The parasailer is lifted to a higher altitude, usually several hundred feet above the water, for a more thrilling experience. This requires more skill and experience than other forms of parasailing.

5. Wakeboarding parasailing – In wakeboarding parasailing, the parasailer is attached to the boat and is able to perform tricks and stunts. This is an excellent option for those who want to combine the thrill of parasailing and the fun of wakeboarding.

What is the Best Time for Parasailing?

The best time to go parasailing depends on several factors, including the weather, location, and personal preferences.

Generally, you’ll want to parasail in calm and stable weather when the wind is not strong, there are no storms or rains, or rough sea conditions. This can help ensure the safety of your flight and the boat.

Consider the climate of your location. In tropical destinations, the dry season or months with milder weather are often preferred. In cooler climates, opt for the warmer months when the weather is more predictable and pleasant.

The time of day can impact your parasailing experience. Mornings usually offer cooler temperatures and lighter winds, while late afternoons to evenings can provide beautiful sunset views. If you are an early riser, you may prefer to do parasailing in the morning when the air is cooler, and the winds are lighter. If you are a night owl, you may prefer to do parasailing in the evening, when the air is warmer, and the skies are often more colorful and vibrant. Choose a time that suits your preference and allows for optimal conditions.

Before trying it out, consult with local parasailing operators or experts who are familiar with the area. Based on local conditions and knowledge, they can provide insights into the best times to go parasailing.

Who can Parasail?

Just about anyone can try parasailing! Generally speaking, as long as you are over four years old, weigh less than 400 pounds, and are in good physical health, you can try it. However, certain medical conditions may prevent individuals from participating in parasailing. Here are some examples:

Heart conditions: Conditions like heart disease or high blood pressure could worsen due to the physical exertion and adrenaline rush involved in parasailing.

Lung conditions: Asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) could be aggravated by physical exertion and exposure to wind and moisture during parasailing.

Neurological conditions: Epilepsy or vertigo may impact an individual’s ability to control their flight or respond to emergencies during parasailing.

Musculoskeletal conditions: Back, hip, shoulder, ankle, or knee injuries could be exacerbated by the physical demands of parasailing.

Pregnancy: Physical exertion and exposure to wind and moisture may pose risks to pregnant women.

If you have any medical conditions or concerns, it’s crucial to consult with your doctor and the parasailing company or instructor before participating. They can provide specific information and guidance tailored to your situation and help you determine if parasailing is suitable for you. Your safety and well-being should always be a top priority.

Equipment Used in Parasailing

Parasailing requires specific equipment to ensure the safety and enjoyment of participants. Here are the primary pieces of equipment used in parasailing:

Parasail Wing/Canopy – The parasail wing, also known as the canopy, is the key component of parasailing equipment. It resembles a parachute but is designed specifically for gliding through the air. Modern parasail wings are typically made from durable and lightweight nylon fabric designed to withstand wind and water forces.

Harness – Parasailers wear a harness that connects them securely to the parasail wing. The harness distributes the weight and forces evenly across the body, providing stability and comfort during the flight. It is essential for the harness to be correctly fitted and adjusted to ensure a secure connection between the parasailer and the parasail wing.

Towline – It is a strong and durable rope or cable that connects the parasail wing to the towing vehicle, usually a motorized boat. The length of the towline can vary depending on the desired altitude and the conditions. The towline must have sufficient strength to withstand the forces generated during the flight.

Towing Boat – A motorized boat tows the parasail wing and participant into the air. The boat should have enough power to generate the necessary speed and lift for the parasail wing to ascend. It is important for the boat operator to have experience in handling parasailing operations and to follow safety protocols.

Winch –  It is a device that is used to lift and lower the parasailer. It can be hydraulic or electric, and it’s mounted on the boat. A winch is used to control the speed and altitude of the flight.

Safety Equipment – Safety is paramount in parasailing, and certain additional equipment is employed to enhance participant safety. This may include life jackets or personal flotation devices (PFDs) for participants, as well as helmets for added head protection. Emergency release systems may also be in place to quickly disconnect the participant from the parasail wing in case of any unforeseen circumstances.

Note that the specific equipment used in parasailing may vary depending on the location, regulations, and operator. Reputable operators prioritize the maintenance and inspection of their equipment to ensure safety standards are met.

Before participating in parasailing, it is recommended to consult with experienced professionals and adhere to their guidelines to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

How to Prepare for Parasailing

To prepare for parasailing and ensure a safe and enjoyable experience, here are some essential steps to follow:

Choose a reputable operator – Research and select a reputable parasailing operator with a good safety record. Read reviews, check their credentials, and ensure they comply with local regulations and safety standards.

Check weather conditions – Parasailing is weather-dependent, so check the weather forecast before your scheduled activity. Ideal conditions include moderate wind speeds, clear skies, and calm waters. Avoid parasailing in stormy or gusty weather conditions.

Dress appropriately – Wear comfortable clothing suitable for weather conditions. Dress in layers if needed, as temperatures can change as you gain altitude. A snug or tight-fitting bottom wear is essential to prevent any wardrobe malfunctions while on air. Women can wear typical swimsuits, but it’s best to wear shorts to prevent the harness from chafing the skin. Avoid loose items that could get tangled in the equipment, such as scarves or long necklaces. Wear secure footwear, like sneakers or sandals with straps, as you may need to walk on a boat or beach.

Understand the instructions – Listen carefully to the instructions provided by the parasailing operator or guide. Understand how to properly wear and adjust the harness, how to communicate with the boat operator, and any specific safety protocols. Ask questions if anything is unclear.

Familiarize yourself with the equipment – You should know it works, including the safety harness and release mechanism.

Follow safety guidelines – Adhere to all safety guidelines and recommendations provided by the operator. This includes weight restrictions, age limitations, and any medical conditions that may affect your ability to parasail. Be honest about your physical capabilities and health to ensure a safe experience.

Stay hydrated – Drink plenty of water before your parasailing adventure, especially if you’ll be spending time in the sun. It’s uncomfortable to feel thirsty or dry while you’re in the air and cannot do anything about it.

Remove valuables – Leave any valuable items, including jewelry, wallets, and electronics, in a safe place before parasailing. It’s best to minimize personal belongings to avoid the risk of loss or damage during the activity.

Follow instructions during takeoff and landing – Pay close attention to the instructions given by the guide or boat operator during takeoff and landing. Maintain a relaxed and balanced posture, keep your feet up, and avoid touching the water with your feet during the landing phase.

Remember, safety should always be a priority during parasailing. By following these preparation steps and the guidance of experienced professionals, you can have a memorable and safe parasailing experience.

What to Expect When Parasailin

During a parasailing experience, you will have an exhilarating adventure. Here’s what you can expect to do:

You will start by boarding a specially equipped boat that will serve as the launching platform for your parasailing flight. Before takeoff, the crew will provide a safety briefing, explaining the necessary instructions, hand signals, and safety protocols.

Once you’re on the boat, you will be fitted with a safety harness and other necessary gear. The crew will ensure that everything is properly secured and adjusted for your comfort and safety.

After that, the fun begins! As the boat gains speed, the parasail will inflate behind you, lifting you gently into the air. You will gradually ascend and experience the sensation of flying. Once in the air, you can relax and enjoy the breathtaking views and the feeling of weightlessness. Take in the scenery, whether it’s a stunning coastline, crystal-clear waters, or scenic landscapes. Take a mental picture of this moment for a memory to cherish!

Depending on the type of parasailing, you may have some control over the direction and altitude of your flight. The crew will guide you on how to steer and adjust your flight, allowing you to participate in the experience. You will be able to communicate with the boat crew and other parasailers using hand signals or a radio system. This allows for clear communication and ensures a safe and coordinated flight.

When it’s time to land, the boat will gradually slow down, and you will be gently brought back to the boat or a designated landing area. The crew will guide you on how to prepare for a smooth landing.

Throughout the entire parasailing experience, the crew will be there to ensure your safety and provide any necessary assistance. They will handle the boat and equipment, allowing you to focus on enjoying the flight.

Risks Associated with Parasailing

While parasailing can be a thrilling and enjoyable activity, it is important to be aware of the potential risks involved. Here are some risks associated with parasailing:

Equipment malfunction – Like any equipment-based activity, there is a risk of equipment malfunction. This could include issues with the parasail wing, harness, towline, or other components. It’s crucial to choose a reputable operator that properly maintains their equipment and follows safety protocols to minimize the risk of equipment failure.

Weather conditions – Parasailing is weather-dependent, and adverse weather conditions can pose risks. Strong winds, thunderstorms, or sudden changes in weather can affect the safety of the activity. Operators should monitor weather conditions closely and cancel or postpone parasailing if conditions are unfavorable.

Towing accidents – Towing accidents can occur if there is a failure in communication or coordination between the participant and the boat operator. This can lead to abrupt changes in speed or direction, potentially causing injuries or accidents. Following instructions and maintaining clear communication with the boat operator are essential to mitigate this risk.

Operator error – Inexperienced or poorly trained operators can increase the risk of accidents. It’s important to choose licensed and experienced parasailing companies that adhere to safety regulations and have a good reputation.

Free-falling – In rare cases, if the towline detaches or breaks, a participant may experience a free fall into the water or land. This can result in injuries upon impact. Reputable operators have safety measures in place, such as emergency release systems or backup lines, to prevent such incidents. It’s important to choose operators that prioritize safety and follow best practices.

Inadequate training or experience – Participants who are inexperienced or have not received proper briefing may be unfamiliar with the necessary safety precautions or how to react in different situations. It is essential to choose operators that provide thorough instructions and guidance to ensure participants are well-prepared and aware of safety procedures.

Physical exertion – Parasailing can require a certain level of physical exertion, especially during takeoff and landing. Participants need to be in reasonable physical condition to maintain balance, follow instructions, and handle the forces generated during the flight.

Collision hazards – In busy waterways, there is a risk of collisions with boats, other parasailers, or objects in the water. Operators should maintain a safe distance from potential hazards and provide proper guidance during takeoff and landing.

Injury during takeoff or landing – Takeoff and landing can be the most critical phases of parasailing. Mishaps during these stages, such as a hard landing or failure to release the parasail, can lead to injuries. Following proper instructions and procedures is essential to mitigate these risks.

Height-related concerns – High-altitude parasailing involves flying at greater heights, which can increase the risks associated with falls or gusts of wind. It requires more skill and experience and should only be attempted by those with appropriate training.

Medical conditions or injuries – Certain medical conditions, such as heart problems, back issues, or pregnancy, may increase the risk associated with parasailing. It’s important to consult with a healthcare professional beforehand to assess any potential risks based on individual circumstances.

To minimize these risks, it is crucial to choose a reputable operator with a strong safety record, follow instructions provided by the operator, disclose any relevant medical conditions, and use proper safety equipment. Be sure to assess the risks and make an informed decision before participating in parasailing.


Parasailing offers a unique and thrilling opportunity to soar through the air and appreciates the beauty of your surroundings from a different perspective. You can experience the sensation of flying for a while, giving you a fun and relaxing time that you’ll never forget. On your next vacation, you may want to consider parasailing if you need to shake things up!