How Do Parasails Land?


You were happy to hear that parasailing is not like riding a roller coaster. That almost inspired you to book a ride…until you thought of one thing. You need to descend on your parachute at some point, so what is that like? How do you land?

The captain will almost always guide you to the flight deck or boat platform for your parasailing landing, except in emergencies. The boat’s winch will pull in the parasailing line gradually, bringing you down. The boat will also go slower. As you reach land, space your legs apart and step down.

Do you still have more questions about how parasails land, such as the difference between a regular landing and an emergency landing? Then you’re in luck. In today’s post, we’ll address the types of landings as well as your landing speed and whether you get wet. You’re not going to want to miss it! 

How Parasails Land in Everyday Scenarios

We’ve mentioned it before on this blog, that old adage that what goes up must come down. Depending on whether you booked 45 minutes or even two hours in the sky, you’ll spend your requisite time dipping, floating, and coasting through the clouds with the water below you. This is the part of the experience that’s the best, so we always advise you to enjoy it however you can, be that through taking pictures or just staying in the moment. 

When the time comes for the boat operator to bring you back down to earth–quite literally, in this case–they’ll aim for one of two places. The first of these is the boat platform, which should be large enough to accommodate at least one parasailer, perhaps even two. 

If you’re parasailing with a bigger group, such as three people, then the boat operator will aim your landing for the flight deck. This deck is where you and your group stood around before you got fitted for your equipment and were brought onto the captain’s boat to get you up in the air. 

You should have a good idea of where the captain is aiming for. If you don’t, then we recommend asking them before you and your group take off for a day of parasailing. Remember, once you’re up in the air, you can rarely speak verbally. The captain might have a microphone for one-way communication, but more than likely, he or she will use hand signals. We’ll talk about this a little later in the article.

Now that you have this information, let’s go over the steps for a perfect parasail landing.

Step 1: Easing Down

You’re probably not watching your phone to check the time, not when you’re hundreds of feet up in the air and surrounded by the beautiful blue ocean. You can easily lose track of the time when parasailing, but your boat operator cannot. He or she knows when to bring you and your group down.

To do that, they use what’s called a hydraulic winch. If you’re not familiar, a winch is a type of hauling device with a horizontal drum. The drum can be motorized or cranked by hand, the former of which is more common in parasailing. Attached to the horizontal drum is the tow rope, which is the same rope tied to your harness or seat. 

As the captain activates the hydraulic winch, it begins pulling in the parasailing line little by little. The descent then is a gradual thing. As we discussed in that blog post about parasailing versus the feeling of riding a roller coaster, your captain will never yank you out of the air. As a matter of fact, you might not even realize the descent has started until you get closer to the ocean.

Step 2: Staying Relaxed

While the winch does its thing, there’s nothing out of the ordinary that you and your group should do. Some parasailers liken this moment to being a kite that’s flown through the air. It’s not often that you’re the kite rather than the one holding the string, so try to find something good out of this part of the ride too.

It’s easy to get a bit panicked as you near the ocean, but your captain is a very experienced professional. They’ve landed hundreds if not thousands of parasails before. They know where to go and how to get you back to land, so trust in their expertise. As much as you can, remain completely relaxed.

Step 3: Stepping onto Land

You’re about to reach either the boat’s platform or the flight deck. When your feet are as close to land as you feel comfortable, take a light, gentle step onto the ground.  Some more seasoned parasailers will bend their knees a bit, which makes your landing look smooth. This is not mandatory though, so don’t worry about it if it’s your first time parasailing. 

Step 4: Heading Back to the Beach

Now that you’re on dry land again, it’s time to return to where your ride started, the beach. If you’re on the flight deck, you can walk back, but if you’re on the captain’s boat platform, he or she will take you to your original destination.  

Step 5: Removing Equipment

Take off all the equipment you used for parasailing, including your life vest. If this gear isn’t yours, then return it to the parasailing company, as you likely lent it from them. Once you’re released from your parasailing trip, you’re free to do whatever you want for the rest of the day.

Since you’re already at the beach anyway, you might decide to stay there and relax. You can also go home, it’s up to you! 

What an Emergency Parasail Landing Entails

The above steps are assuming your parasail landing goes just fine. In most cases, it will. That said, in some instances, your boat operator might have to make an emergency landing, which goes a bit differently than normal.

This is known as a water landing, so–as we’re sure you can imagine–you’re going to get wet. A boat operator will call for a water landing if they for some reason cannot safely reach the flight deck or if they can’t get you to the boat platform. In inclement weather as well, a water landing is more common.

With a water landing, the above steps still occur, at least the first few. You may descend slightly faster because you are in an emergency and there’s no time to spare. That said, you won’t feel like you’re zipping through the skies plummeting straight for the ocean.

As you near the water, your descent speed should be nearly zero so you can land atop the ocean. Since you can’t stand on water, you are going in. Don’t worry though, as your life vest will keep you afloat. 

What happens next varies depending on the emergency. If it’s safe to get you to shore, then that’s what will follow. If you need to be rescued–which would be an extremely rare occurrence but still one you should be prepared for–then you’d wait until an authority can come out and help you back to land.  

The captain should talk about how to handle emergencies before you take off in your parasail. 

How Will You Know When It’s Time for a Parasail Landing? The Importance of Hand Signals

Okay, we said we’d get back to it, so let’s talk about how your captain communicates with you from their boat while you’re hundreds of feet up. In most cases, they’ll use hand signals. We recommend you learn these basic hand signals before your flight so you know what your captain is trying to tell you.

Start Engine

Before the captain revs the engine of their boat, they should give a signal. They’ll raise one arm up, their fingers together and their palm away from their face. Then they’ll rotate that hand a few times. This is how you know your parasailing adventure is about to begin, so brace yourself! 

Clear to Launch

If it’s clear to ascend, the captain will raise both arms out like wings. Their thumbs will be up. 

Cut Engine

In a situation like an emergency landing especially, the captain might tell you they have to cut the engine. To do this, they’ll put both arms over their head, crossing their hands overtop each other. Their fingers will be out flat and pressed together. 

Land Here

This is one of the most important hand signals, so pay attention. Your captain will indicate where to land–such as the flight deck or their boat platform–with their hands. One hand will be raised to slightly below their chin, the fingers out and flat. Their other arm will be directed towards where your landing will be, their index finger out to point. 

How Should You Hold Yourself When Landing a Parasail?

Is a parasailing landing a passive experience or is there anything you can do to make it better for yourself or the captain? Yes, there is. As we said before, staying relaxed is paramount. If you begin rocking or otherwise moving your parasail rig, you could knock yourself off course so you don’t make the precise landing the captain was aiming for.

Otherwise, as the distance between yourself and the ocean shrinks, you can space your legs apart somewhat so landing will be quick and easy. Don’t sit in an unnatural or uncomfortable way though. As we mentioned before, you can also bend your knees as you approach the landing point to make your landing look cool.

Do You Ever Get Wet When Landing?

Some parasailers might prefer to witness the ocean but not feel its coldness. If you count yourself among them, do you have to get wet as you near the water? Not unless you ask your captain to, no! 

The time for dipping your feet in the water will come during the descent. If you prefer to be splashed around a bit, this is also when that will happen. As we always say, these things don’t occur by default, so speak up to your captain before takeoff if you want to get wet!

Obviously, if your captain for any reason must make an emergency water landing, then yes, you’re going to get wet regardless of your wishes. Such a landing was likely done to save your life, so although you’re going to be cold and wet, you’re in one piece, and that’s most important. 

Final Thoughts

Parasails land through a hydraulic winch system that gradually pulls in the tow line until the parasailers get close to the ocean. Then it’s just a matter of landing on the captain’s boat platform or returning to the flight deck.

Landing doesn’t have to be scary. Now that you know how the process goes, hopefully you feel readier than ever to book a parasailing trip! 

Geoff Southworth

I am a California native and I enjoy all the outdoors has to offer. My latest adventures have been taking the family camping, hiking and surfing.

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