What Is Parasailing?



Most of us think of using a parachute to float down from the sky safely to the Earth. But that’s not the only way to use a parachute. Parasailing does just the opposite.

Table of Contents

  • [ps2id url=’#1′ offset=” class=”]What is parasailing?[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#2′ offset=” class=”]The difference between parasailing and paragliding[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#3′ offset=” class=”]Who invented parasailing?[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#4′ offset=” class=”]Parasailing FAQ[/ps2id]
  • [ps2id url=’#5′ offset=” class=”]Best Parasailing Videos[/ps2id]
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Let’s get into it!

What is parasailing?

what is parasailing?

Parasailing, sometimes called parascending or parakiting, is a recreational kiting activity.

To enjoy this activity you’ll need a great amount of courage, a vehicle which is usually a boat, but a car or a truck can be used, too, as well as a tow rope and a parasail wing.

parasailing wing

A person who is brave enough is then towed behind the boat (or other vehicle) and attached to a parasail wing using a harness.

A parasail wing is a specially designed canopy wing that resembles a parachute. It is usually brightly colored.

Some of the canopies have different symbols, from flags, logos, to smiley faces, and multiple color patterns.

parasailing pic

Picture it like this: the parasailor is attached to the parasail by the harness, which is connected to the boat, or land vehicle, by the tow rope.

Now that we have all the needed equipment and courage, it’s time to fly.

The boat onto which the parasailor is attached starts off lifting the parasailor and a parasail wing into the air.

what is parasailing like

More than one person (two or three) can parasail behind the boat if it’s powerful enough. 

Here’s a video showing parasailing in action in sunny Mexico, to show you what parasailing actually looks like.

As you can see from the above video, to get airborne, you got to attach yourself to a harness that is attached to a very large parachute or parasail. 

Then, your harness is attached to a towing vehicle i.e. a fast-moving boat, as mentioned above.  

You are usually standing on the beach with a crowd gathered waiting for your daredevil show to begin (even though there aren’t really any stunts, just you elevating into the air).

The boat takes off and up you go! The longer the tow rope is, the higher you’ll go. 

what is parasailing

You don’t even have to worry about steering, as you have little control anyway.

Actually, once you get up there, you’re basically along for the ride. Depending on where the boat goes, you soar the skies like an eagle.  

We should note – there is another sport called “paragliding”, which is not the same as parasailing.

When the parasailing “ride” is over, the boat motors close to the beach and slows down, and down you come. 

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You step onto the beach, unharness yourself and the show is over.

The difference between parasailing and paragliding 

As we said before, parasailing is easily confused with paragliding and parachuting. The main similarities are the use of a parachute, and both can ascend and glide.

The difference is that parasailing is more stable while ascending, and it requires a little to no steering control by the parasailor as (s)he is towed aloft. Being attached to a vehicle gives stability.


On the other hand, in paragliding, the pilot also has a harness in which he sits, and it’s attached to a wing above it. There is no vehicle or engine to start up the paraglider.

Here, the pilot has full control over direction, (s)he is steering it, and (s)he decides where (s)he wants to fly. In paragliding, everything is about the air, airflow, and aerodynamic forces.


Although there’s no engine in paragliding, paraglider flights can last for hours and fly hundreds of kilometers, but usually, it only lasts one or two hours and tens of kilometers.

If the pilot is skillful enough, (s)he can climb a few thousand meters into the atmosphere, while the pilot in parasailing can go up only for the length of a rope.

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Both are great fun, although parasailing is slightly more popular, easier (meaning it doesn’t require as much skill as paragliding) and safer.

Who invented parasailing?

Parasailing (also known as parascending and parakiting) has been around for years – maybe longer than you’d think. 

Pierre-Marcel Lemoigne was a French engineer who invented the parasail in 1961, and the purpose was to assist parachutists with training. 

He modified a para-commander parachute and called it the “ascending gliding parachute”. 

who invented parasailing pierre marcel lemoigne

Lemoigne founded the Aeronautical Training Service where he introduced the parasail intended for parachutists in training.

Parachutists were towed to a suitable altitude and released to practice landing. It was as efficient an airplane, but much cheaper. And, before long, parasailing caught on as more of a recreational activity. 

He sold his idea to an American company in 1962 called Pioneer Parachute Company in Connecticut. They came up with the name, “parasailing”. 

Today, this company is one of the leading providers of skydiving and military parachutes in the world. 

parasailing view from above

In the mid 1960’s, the US military used the parasail for many functions, such as rescue missions.  It wasn’t until 1969, that parasailing became a sport of any kind. 

Parasailing first began over land when the tow vehicle had 4 wheels. Soon after, someone decided to use a boat as the tow vehicle, and now people could soar like a bird over the water. 

The beach resorts in Mexico and the Caribbean began to attract thrill seekers with a 50 foot tow charging only $5 a ride.  

Check out this “helmet cam” view of parasailing.  You’ll either love the look of it or…maybe not.

Parasailing wasn’t all fun and thrills, as the sport was evolving. 

It became very dangerous as you might imagine, especially if the rider had no “flying” experience, and also considering some of the early design modifications along the way. 

parasailing over water

Rules were made by The National Transportation Safety Board around the world and the sport died off for some time. 

But today, countries like Finland and Northern Europe are famous inland-based parasailing locations. 

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Almost every beach in Mexico makes the sport available to willing tourists.  New groups have made this sport into a family-friendly hobby.  

Parasailing FAQ

Reading all the text above, seeing videos and photos probably makes you wonder countless questions.

Is it safe? Is it for me? Who can do that? Can children go parasailing? What is the feeling up there in the air? If something goes wrong, do I just float on the water and wait for them to pick me? And that’s just the beginning…

kids parasailing

Let’s try to provide some answers to these burning questions.

Parasailing is considered very safe. Statistics says that the chances for a bad outcome are .00001 percent, which isn’t a percentage of high-risk activity.

Great news for all the over-thinkers who seek adventure! But, it doesn’t mean you should pay no attention to equipment and instructors and their instructions. Only if you take everything into consideration, parasailing will be the safest possible. 

Firstly you should listen to what instructors are saying.

parasailing instructor

Secondly, pay attention to the ropes. Most accidents in parasailing happen because the towline breaks. One of the reasons for a weak towline is sunlight and seawater that weakens it with every use. So, pay attention to it. 

If you want, ask how long that particular towline has been in use.  If it looks yellow and frayed, perhaps that is a warning sign.

There are two ways of parasailing – hanging in the harness or sitting in a gondola. You can assume that the second way is safer, although the first one is more exciting.

You chose what you are striving for more – safeness or excitement. In both cases, you should ask the operator what the plan is and what actions to take if the line breaks. 

Also, the weather is very important. If it’s too windy, as in so windy that you can’t open your beach umbrella, don’t go parasailing. If there are thunderstorms somewhere nearby, just do some other fun activities that will keep you close to the ground. 

If you’re wondering if you need to be a professional water sportsman to go parasailing – no, you don’t.

Anyone older than 6 who is heavier than 19kg and weighs less than 273kg (usually combined weight; as we said before, some vehicles can lift more than one person) can do it.

parasailing for two

Still, doesn’t everyone want to go parasailing?  Maybe, maybe not. It depends on the person.

Some enjoy the adrenaline rush, adventure, freedom, danger, while some simply don’t find it amusing or enticing, and they’d rather do more calming activities, such as suntanning, sipping a cocktail on the beach, just watching those brave-hearted folks who really do love parasailing.

Don’t push your best friend to keep you company up there, if they don’t want to. Respect everyone’s reasons and decisions. 

Here’s a video with someone who is terrified of parasailing, but does it anyway.

Maybe you want to know what to wear when parasailing. Well, you can wear pretty much whatever you want.

You won’t want to be wearing any jeans, as they’re a bit too restrictive. A swimsuit, a beach dress – clothes you wear at the beach will be perfect for this activity.

ladies parasailing

Overall, is it scary?  Too scary for you?  Try watching some people do it in person, and see if you think it looks scary.  If you’re having panic attacks, it might not be for you.  If you think it looks thrilling, feel free to sign up.

Lastly, we’ll say that if you are in search of a great summer adventure and an experience of a lifetime, or you want to try something new, parasailing could be a great choice for you.

Who knows, if you like it, maybe it becomes your new hobby or even something more.

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Parasailing is alive and well and once you experience the exhilaration, you might just get hooked!

Best Parasailing Videos

About the author: Janis is loves to study topics involving health & wellness, and is obsessed with natural supplements and learning about what goes into them and what they do, or don’t do.  She went to university for nutrition with a minor in economics. Out of the Beach Baby Squad, she is the most likely to stay home. She also does the most of the product reviews on this site.