Parasailing is ‘exhilarating’ sport

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Nearly 50 years ago, a Frenchman named Pierre-Marcel Lemoigne developed parachutes that were intended for towing instead of free falls. During the next decade, this creation underwent numerous alterations by various designers, but it eventually translated into one of the most unique experiences on water: parasailing.

This recreational sport enables someone to float above the water at moderate speeds and get a breathtaking view. Trailed by a boat and kept aloft by a parachute that’s 30-plus feet in diameter, those who parasail are strapped in for the ride of their lives.

“It’s an exhilarating feeling because you’re 500 feet in the air over the water,” said Brooke McCullough, owner and operator of H2O Sports on Hilton Head and a parasailing instructor for 25 years. “It’s very peaceful and quiet. You just hear the wind breezing by.”

Parasail boats are specifically designed, and are inspected by the U.S. Coast Guard. The boats can carry up to 12 passengers.

On a typical trip, instructors begin with safety instructions and demonstrate how riders are harnessed onto the parachute. Riders wear life jackets and are attached to the parachute in a harness that McCullough compared to a large tree swing.

Typically, two people ride at once, though three could if they were small enough, such as a parent and two smaller kids for example.

Once the boat departs and the instructions are completed, tandems of two or three are harnessed in. Then the parachute sends them skyward. On McCullough’s boat, the reel line is 800 feet, enabling the riders to reach 500 feet in the air. At their peak, McCullough said it’s possible to see 25 miles in all directions. Riders also get to see fish, turtles and other sea life below while enjoying a smooth ride.

“It’s not like a roller coaster ride, it’s more like a hot air balloon ride,” said McCullough. “And the view is spectacular.”

Riders will stay in the air between 6-8 minutes before McCullough slowly starts the descent. During the ride, the boat reaches maximum speeds between 25-30 mph, depending on the wind speed. More wind creates greater lift and less of a need for boat speed. If winds are higher than 20 mph, McCullough will not let anyone parasail for safety reasons.

McCullough said he’s taken individuals from 3-94 years old aloft, including those who were handicapped and restricted to wheelchairs.

“Anyone can do it,” he said, who mentioned some of his clients have included Carol Burnett and Tom Hanks. And for anyone who’s apprehensive, McCullough advises to let another group go first.

“You’re safely secure and it’s hard to really gauge how high you are,” he said. “Watch someone else and you’ll be at ease.”

Do …

 

  • Your research. Your safety directly depends on the parasailing company you choose.
  • Make sure the parasailing company you do business with is licensed.
  • Check the weather report. Avoid weather conditions like rain, fog or an approaching storm.
  • Listen carefully to the instructors.

 

Don’t  …

 

  • Be a showoff.
  • Forget to bring sunscreen on your trip.
  • Forget to bring a waterproof camera so that you can take pictures of all those wonderful memories that you will be creating.

 

Parasailing companies:

H20 Sports
149 Lighthouse Road, Sea Pines Plantation
843-671-4FUN (4386), www.h2osportsonline.com

Harbour Town Yacht Basin
Harbour Town
843-671-2704, harbourtownyachtbasin.com

Island Watersports
South Beach Marina
843-671-7007

Palmetto Bay Parasail
Palmetto Bay Marina
843-785-7131, www.parasailhiltonhead.com

Sky Pirates Watersports
Broad Creek Marina
843-842-2566, skypiratewatersports.com