View Mobile Site

Parasailing? Dangerous? Like, duh.

Text Size: Small Large Medium
POSTED July 4, 2014 11:31 p.m.

I was 500 feet above the Pacific Ocean about midway between Molokai and Maui. And I wasn’t having a good time.

Twenty years ago we had gone to Maui with another couple.

Cynthia talked me into going parasailing. It will be fun, she said.

We came across a parasail operator in Lahaina. His minimum was taking out six people at a time. He said he was hoping twins he had met at a bar the previous night would take him up on his offer to try parasailing. If they showed up, he’s take us out.

About 10 minutes later, two women — they looked like they were still teens — showed up. They could have been on Baywatch except their bikinis weren’t big enough for family viewing time back in 1994.

It was also clear he was trying to make time with them.

That should have been enough to warn me this wasn’t a good idea.

The captain, as he insisted on being called, gave us the run down.

The tow line was 800 feet long. The maximum you could get up was about 500 feet. But since we were buying the $35 package per person we’d only be all the way up for about 10 minutes so we’d probably be 250 feet off the water.

And if for some reason if we were uncomfortable, all we had to do was move our right foot in a circle and he’d bring us back down.

George went up first. Then Cynthia. I noticed that the captain was paying more attention to the bimbos than who he had tethered behind his boat at 250 feet.

Then it was my turn.

I was buckled into the harness and reminded to hold on to both straps hanging down from the parachute. I was a bit apprehensive as I became airborne. It was understandable. I could dog paddle but not swim. Yes, I had a life jacket on but I figured if I managed to fall from 250 feet that probably wouldn’t help too much.

Then it happened. A strong gust slammed into me above the Pacific Ocean. One second I was sitting straight up in the harness looking toward Molokai. The next second I was sideways frantically trying to grab one of the straps that came out of my grasp as the gust hit. I started yelling. I was pretty sure they couldn’t hear me in the boat down below. I knew I couldn’t hear myself as my heart beat was drowning out the sounds coming from my mouth.

After what seemed like an eternity, I was able to get somewhat upright but I was still flopping back and forth unable to grab the other strap for stability. My knuckles were turning white in my left hand that grasped what I believed was the only thing that was preventing me from falling out of the straps and becoming a story in the Honolulu Advertiser about a tourist being killed parasailing after plummeting into the Pacific Ocean.

I then remembered to circle my foot. I did so gingerly out of fear I would lose my somewhat upright position.

George said he told the captain that it looked like I wanted to come down.

The captain, without even looking toward me, told George that I was just fine. He then did something that astounded George and scared the crap out of me. He started letting more line go out as he continued chatting up the bimbos. I was screaming words that I didn’t even know existed. Then after about a minute or so there was a hard tug and I started bobbing around. Later on I would find out I was at the end of the 800 foot line and probably 500 feet up. I started thinking about sharks. I regained my composure somewhat and again wriggled my foot.

George told the captain that I wanted to come down.The Captain — without looking — said I was having a blast as he continued to sweet talk the two blondes.

Then, apparently realizing he had gone farther toward Molokai than he intended, instead of bringing me down, he went into a turn. The one strap I was holding onto was now beneath me as the boat turned prompting my body to shift backwards and place pressure on the harness in new spots.

Terror is too benign of a word to describe what I was feeling.

Eventually he started reeling me back in. When I was perhaps 80 feet from getting my feet back on the boat, Cynthia commented to Bobbie and George that she had never seen me so mad.

The captain unhooked the harness and I returned to my seat after what I later found was a ride most people would die for — I was up 25 minutes and had gone as high as you could go. As I held onto the boat’s edge with a death grip, one of the two blondes turned to me and asked; “Wasn’t that a lot of fun?”

In no uncertain terms I told her if either one of them said one more thing to me I was pushing them both over the edge of the boat.

I didn’t say another word until after we had been on shore for 20 minutes.

Since 1982, some 130 million parasailing rides have taken place. There have been 73 deaths and 423 serious injuries. The National Transportation Safety Board wants the 325 operators in this country to be licensed and pass rigid safety tests.

In short, Uncle Sam has determined parasailing to be risky.


This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.

Commenting is not available.

Commenting not available.

Please wait ...