A recreational activity that allows a participant wearing a harness attached to a round parachute to be towed into the air behind an automobile or boat.
The inventor of parasailing was Pierre Lemoigne of France. In 1961, Lemoigne altered the design of a round parachute to ascend when towed behind an automobile. Parachutists referred to this method of lift as parascending. The development of parascending was triggered from a need of parachute instructors to lower the cost of training a new parachute trainee. Also, parascending allowed the instructor to tow the trainee to a specific altitude, one that would be a suitable dropping height from which the trainee would be released to make a landing on the ground. As this training method became popular, advancements in parascending led Lemoigne to the water. A boat was introduced as the towing vehicle in late 1961 and that introduction led to the renaming of parascending to parasailing.
With increased awareness of parasailing, more individuals were willing to participate not as parachute trainees but as ticket holders for a ride. Parasail concessions began offering rides at beachfront resorts. The parasailing rides offered to vacationers also created safety issues.
Injuries and deaths were connected to parasailing rides in the 1960’s as a result of the combination of inexperienced parasail participants and inexperienced concessionaires’ flight crews. A participant would be given instructions about the parasail and information on how a person would lift off the ground. The execution of the launch had two elements. First, the participant ran down the beach behind the boat. Second, the boat accelerated as the participant ran until lift was created. After the person was in the air and ready to end the ride, the descent began. The participant was visually instructed to pull certain lines on the parasail to land on the beach.
The beach method of launching and recovering a parasailer may look simplistic on paper, but it is simple only in theory. Injuries, including abrasions, cuts, and broken bones, occurred on launch and recovery. Some parasailers even died. These types of injuries occurred when participants were dragged through the sand during the launch or recovery procedure.
Although accidents occurred using the beach method of parasailing, the recreational sport increased in popularity as the activity evolved the platform method of launch and recovery. In 1971, Mark McCulloch designed a stationary parasail platform. The platform was positioned in a body of water to allow for the launch and recovery of the parasailer. Although platform parasailing was safer for participants, it was more costly to operate than the beach parasailing method because a five-member crew was needed to operate the ride. The beach method needed only a two-member crew for the launch and recovery operation.
Two years following the development of the platform method, the winchboat method evolved from it. The platform would no longer be stationary in the water, but was attached to the back of a boat so that it would move. This method allowed the concessionaire to have fewer crew members to operate the ride. By the 1990’s, improvements in equipment, crew-member training, and participant awareness had made winchboat parasailing a safe aeronautical activity.
Parasailing has grown to capture the hearts of vacationers everywhere, which has led to an increased demand for the sport. This would not have happened if the beach resorts had not embraced it. Since the 1960’s, concessionaires who offer parasail rides to their customers have forced the parasail manufacturers to improve the equipment and the training given to the buyers of the equipment. This has provided a safer environment for both parasailers and ride operators.
Carminito, David. “The History of Parasailing, the Winchboat, and the Evolution of Skyrider.” (www .skyrider .net/history.htm) An excellent article about the history of the recreational sport of parasailing, with technical information about advanced equipment that is being developed for the year 2001 and beyond. Parasail Safety Council. (www.parasail.org) A World Wide Web site listing methods of launch and recovery and rules and regulations that apply to parasailing. Will-Harris, Tony. Hang Gliding and Parasailing. Minnetonka, Minn.: Capstone Press, 1992. A forty-eight-page, elementary-level illustrated book that includes basic information about parasailing.
Hang gliding and paragliding