How Do Parasails Work?

Suppose you want to try parasailing but wondering how do parasails work? While there is really nothing to worry about, some people have concerns. But, generally speaking, these fears are significantly decreased when they learn how parasails work.

Various components are required for parasailing. These include a harness, a parachute, a tow line, a winch, and a boat. However, parasailing itself is actually quite simple.

  • You are strapped into the harness
  • The harness is attached to the parachute.
  • The parachute is connected to the tow line and the boat.
  • The parachute is lifted into the air as the boat gains speed.

It is slightly more complicated than that, but we will explain it more. But, first, we want to look at all of the components required for parasailing.

The Components of a Parasail

You first need to know the major components before discussing how a parasail works.

1. The Parachute

Perhaps the most essential component is the parachute itself. This is also known as the parasail wing. Don’t get this confused with a paraglider, which is more like a special kite strapped to a frame. A parasail wing is like an open parachute.

The parachute is securely attached to a metal bar that a harness is strapped onto.

The parachute is designed to create lift when the boat reaches speed. Wind will catch the parachute, thus lifting the parasailer into the air. These parachutes are usually brightly colored to make them highly visible in the air, allowing for greater safety levels.

These parachutes are made of high-quality parachute nylon, which provides a great deal of durability and strength. This also renders the parachute extraordinarily lightweight and makes it lift much easier.

2. The Harness or Gondola

The next part is known as the gondola, which is a flexible and wide seat. It somewhat resembles a children’s swing at your local park. However, unlike a normal swing, you’re strapped in, so you are very secure. Unlike on a children’s swing, you also don’t rock back and forth.

A gondola seat is one option, and a harness is another. With a standard harness, you just hang in the air. However, for most beginners, the gondola is a better option; a gondola has a seat and is, therefore, more comfortable.

On the same note, sitting is generally more relaxing for people. However, hanging in the air by a harness is more exhilarating if you are a thrill-seeker. Generally speaking, only more experienced parasailers will use a harness. However, keep in mind that both types are incredibly safe.

3. The Tow Rope

The next component of a parasailing setup is the tow rope or parasailing rope. This rope is attached directly to the parachute or parasailing wing.

One side of the rope is connected to the parachute, and the other to the boat. Parasailing ropes are usually high-quality polyester yarn that features a wax exterior. These ropes are layered and dual braided as well.

There will usually be up to 800 feet of tow rope used for parasailing. The 800-foot limit is outlined by the Federal Aviation Administration. The captain of your parasailing trip will speed up the boat, which will cause the parachute to fill with air and gain lift.

4. The Winch

A winch is attached to the back of the boat. The tow rope is tied to a winch – the tow rope is not tied directly to the boat. Instead, the rope is wrapped around the winch, which has a motor that rotates the drum in either direction; the tow rope can be extended or retracted.

As the parasailing captain speeds up the boat, the parachute will lift. Once the parachute gains lift, the winch will be activated. The rope will be let out gradually to allow the parachute to go higher and higher. Parasailing really wouldn’t be possible without a good winch.

5. The Boat

A fast boat is required for parasailing. It doesn’t have to be anything overly special, but it should be able to go at least 15 to 30 mph.

How Do Parasails Work

How do Parasails Work?

We have now discussed the major components required for parasailing. Next, we will bring everything together to see how the actual process works.

You should have made your reservations, including how many people will be along for the trip. Keep in mind that a single parasailing ride will usually be limited to two to three people at most

1. Choosing a Harness or Gondola – Get Strapped In

First, choose between a harness and a gondola. A gondola seat is usually the better choice for a beginner.

At this point, a trained professional will securely strap you into the gondola seat or the harness. You’ll be provided with a life jacket that fits you because you will be flying above the water.

Wearing the correct size life jacket is essential. If it’s too tight, you won’t be able to breathe well, and if it’s too loose, it might fall off. So once you have been secured into the harness, make sure it cannot come loose.

2. Attaching the Tow Rope at Both Ends

The next step is attaching the tow rope at both ends. One end will be connected directly to your parasailing wing or parachute, and the other end will be attached to the winch on the boat. The parasailing captain will use either a particular knot or a metal hook to secure it.

Once again, these ropes are very strong, so there is no need to be worried. Now, you’re fully hooked to your parasail, and it’s attached to tow line and winch, so there’s only one thing left to do.

3. Beginning the Ascent

Now is where the fun begins. You will be standing on the rear of the boat. With you standing on the stern of the boat, the captain will start moving forward. The captain will slowly accelerate the boat until it reaches anywhere between 15 to 30 mph. Generally speaking, expect to move at between 25 to 30 mph.

As the boat gains speed, the parachute will catch the air. This will produce lift, and you will begin to rise in the air. The tow rope will be extended more when your parachute has a good lift.

The winch will be activated so that the tow rope is fed out. As that rope extends out from the winch, the rider will gain more altitude.

This rope can be up to 800 feet long, allowing you to achieve heights of up to 500 feet, which is the legal limit for parasailing.

4. Soaring in the Sky

Now you are soaring in the sky for as long as your package allows for. Keep in mind that the time you are allowed to spend up will differ depending on the company.

Generally speaking, most trips will last for around 30 to 40 minutes. This is more than enough time spent up in the air for most people. This is a great time to enjoy the view below and take pictures.

5. The Descent and Landing

Once your time is up, the parasailing captain will again activate the hydraulic winch and very slowly pull the tow rope back in towards the boat.

People may fear that this is a quick fall. However, this is a gradual and slow descent. It’s very smooth, and most people don’t even notice that it’s happening for the first couple of minutes.

There are a few different ways to land. First, you may elect to get your feet in the water on your way down, but you have to ask the captain beforehand. However, this is not a necessity. If you tell the captain that you’d prefer not to dip your feet in the water, they will respect your wishes.

When it comes to landing, there are several options. The captain may elect to have you land on the rear of the boat or on the dock or pier that you started from.

Make sure to bend your knees slightly and have your feet spread pretty far apart. This will allow for a stable and safe landing. Once you have landed on solid ground, you will be unstrapped from the parasailing apparatus.

Some Parasailing Tips for Beginners

Before we end, we want to provide a few essential parasailing tips for beginners.

  • Always book your parasailing trip as early as possible. You want to book it at least two or three days in advance, if not more. Parasailing is a very popular activity, and if you wait too long, you may not get a spot.
  • As a beginner parasailer, the time of day also matters. Generally speaking, the earlier hours are better because they aren’t quite as windy, and the ocean will be a bit calmer. This makes for a more enjoyable experience, especially for beginners.
  • Always check with the parasailing company in terms of limits. For example, there may be various weight and age limits you must adhere to.
  • Always bring a bathing suit. Although you might not want to get wet, chances are that you will. That said, if the weather is cool, you have a choice to make. Some people may wear long pants and long sleeves to stay warm while in the air.

Parasailing Basics – Final Thoughts

The concept of parasailing is relatively simple; only a few components are involved, and the way it works is very straightforward. Keep in mind that parasailing is a very relaxing experience, and it is exceptionally safe.