Parasailing, also known as parascending, or "parakiting" is a recreational kiting activity where a person is towed behind a vehicle (usually a boat) while attached to a specially designed canopy wing that reminds one of a parachute, known as a parasail wing. The manned kite's moving anchor may be a car, truck, or boat. The harness attaches the pilot to the parasail, which is connected to the boat, or land vehicle, by the tow rope. The vehicle then drives off, carrying the parascender (or wing) and person into the air. If the boat is powerful enough, two or three people can parasail behind it at the same time. The parascender has little or no control over the parachute. The activity is primarily a fun ride, not to be confused with the sport of paragliding.
There are commercial parasailing operations all over the world. Land-based parasailing has also been transformed into a competition sport in Europe. In land-based competition parasailing, the parasail is towed to maximum height behind a 4 wheel drive vehicle. The driver then releases the tow line; the parasailer flies down to a target area in an accuracy competition. The sport was developed in the early 80's and has been very popular ever since. The first international competitions were held in the mid 80's and continue to this day.
In the last years para-ascending or parasailing has become a significant watersports-business in tourism. A few years ago only some watersports venues offered Parasailing, as that kind of activity requires profound experience. This has now changed, as the majority of hotels, tour and dive center operators have realized that a parasailing boat would make a significant difference in their watersport-business and activities on proposal, representing a considerable source of income for the owners.
Pierre Lamoigne couldn’t have known that he was making aviation sport history when in the early 1960′s he attached a parachute to his moving car and invented parasailing. Lamoigne was a parachute teacher, and the easiest method then to teach the use of a parachute was to raise the “pilot” into the air to a certain height and then untie the parachute to let the pilot float free. People often confuse this method called parascending with hang gliding. But when Lamoigne did not release the parachute and pulled the pilot along in the air behind in a high-speed vehicle, parasailing truly began.
Higher standards for parasailing were set in the 1970s when a man named Mark McCulloh made history by using the parachutes at sea. He started first by raising parachutes from the shore but then went on to design a motorized platform, then a boat to pull the parachute back to the ship. These days there is even a specially designed ship with a built-in platform for take off and landing.
The Pioneer Parachute Company started making parachutes under the protected name of “Parasail” back in the 1960s after Lamoigne’s first successes. Parasailing historically has enjoyed most of its popularity as an air and water sport, but there are now land-based parasailing competitions that are especially popular in Northern Europe and Finland. History was made again with the first international competitions being held in 2004.
Parasailing does not have to rely on competitions to be a popular sport. History shows that the thrill and excitement of being airborne has made the sport of parasailing very popular with families. But caution and good judgment should always be used, especially with the equipment and weather conditions for flying. Everyone should get training from a certified parasailing instructor before attempting a first flight.