In our post on the parts of a parasail, you read about the tow rope, also known as parasail rope. That was some good information, but you want to learn as much as you can about tow rope before you go parasailing. One question that’s on your mind is how long is a parasail rope?
The average parasail rope length is between 300 and 800 feet. If your line is only 300 feet, you can ascend around 200 feet in the air. For a height of 500 vertical feet, up to 800 feet of tow rope is required. That’s the max allowable amount of line per the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA.
This article will be your parasail rope 101 lesson. We’ll talk more about the different materials used to make parasailing ropes and what restrictions the FAA has. We’ll even discuss whether a tow rope can snap since we’re sure you’re curious.
What Is a Parasail Rope?
Okay, so first thing’s first, what is the parasail rope anyway?
A parasail rope is also known as a tow rope since it tows you and your fellow passengers (provided you ride with anyone else) through the sky over the ocean. That’s the whole crux of parasailing.
The rope is connected at two points. The first of these is at the parasail wing, also known as the parachute. We explained this in our article about how parasailing works, but the tow rope is not attached to your gondola or harness directly.
The other attachment point of the parasail rope is the captain’s boat. Before you take off, the crew will inspect all connections, including both sides of the parasail line. Then the captain starts their boat while the crew holds onto the parachute until your parasail gains some momentum. When given the signal from the captain, they let go and you will slowly yet surely begin ascending.
How Long Is a Parasail Rope?
When the captain initially begins accelerating, the parasail rope looks so long. That’s because the rope is loose. It’s by increasing the distance between your parasail and the boat operator that the parasail line becomes taut, which is also a crucial part of achieving altitude.
How long is a parasail rope? That depends on your own preferences as well as those of your fellow parasailers.
As we’ve discussed on this blog, parasailing is a relatively customizable experience. If you’d prefer to stay dry during your entire ride, that’s one option you have. You can also get dipped down low and splashed among the cool ocean waves if you’d like.
The height of your parasail ride is also adjustable, although this can vary based on the parasailing company you book through. For first-timers who don’t want to go all that high, the captain may ascend you no more than 225 feet. In such a case, they don’t need a very long tow rope, only 300 feet.
What if you’d rather go higher? As we mentioned in the intro, the Federal Aviation Administration or FAA has rules about that. Although the FAA mostly governs aircraft and airports, they’re responsible for all United States air traffic. That includes drones, kites, and yes, parasails.
Parasails are held in the same regard as kites per FAA rules, which means they have identical operating limits. Those limits are explained in rule 14 CFR § 101.13, which you can read in full courtesy of the Legal Information Institute through Cornell Law School.
The rule states that kites or moored balloons (as well as parasails) cannot exceed 500 feet “above the surface of the earth” nor 500 feet “from the base of any cloud.” Fun facts, you also can’t parasail within five miles of an airport boundary or anyplace where ground visibility isn’t at least three miles out.
A tow rope that’s 800 feet long would allow for a max flight height of 500 vertical feet, which is right within the limit. The FAA also mandates that you cannot use more than 800 feet of parasail rope anyway, so this is as far as any parasailing company should take it.
If you want an altitude between 225 and 500 feet and you’re not sure how much parasail rope to request, here’s how you calculate it. Divide your desired altitude by 0.75 to get the ideal tow rope length. You can also multiply 0.75 by that rope length to confirm the altitude.
For example, if you wanted to ascend no higher than 300 feet in the air, when you divide 300 by 0.75, you get 400. That means you need 400 feet of tow rope.
What Is Parasail Rope Made of?
When we’ve discussed tow rope on this blog, we’ve always talked about it being made of polyester. That’s the most common material, but it’s not the only one. Some parasail rope manufacturers will use Spectra instead. Here’s more information.
Spectra is a type of ultra-high molecular weight polyethylene or UHMWPE. The fibers are favored for their cut resistance as well as their tensile strength. Although they weigh 1/10th of a steel cable, Spectra fibers have become suitable replacements for steel.
Parasailing companies might use Spectra 900, a fibrous single-braided, 12-strand composite line with polyester and Spectra fibers interwoven together. Spectec-12 is another option, as this tow rope also includes Spectra fiber. Also 12-stranded rope, Spectec-12 features hollow braiding for smoother splices.
Polyspec is a Spectra/polyester hybrid as well. The core of this rope is pure Spectra while the cover is made of polyester. Another difference is that Polyspec is double-braided for even greater durability.
The most powerful Spectra line is Spectra 1000, which is recommended for situations in which high tensile strength is required. This fiber is chemical, UV, and water-resistant, and it can float too. Its strain rate velocity is intended for high loads, and it’s got great visco-elasticity as well.
Your other option for parasailing rope is polyester, which is the more cost-effective and thus common of the two rope materials. Like Spectra, most polyester parasail line is UV-resistant so long periods in the sun won’t degrade its quality. The flexibility of polyester is another reason it’s so heavily used, as is its lightweight quality yet great strength.
Polyester tow rope with urethane coating boasts even greater protection against wear and tear. This 12-strand rope comes core-less, but its strength means that it would take between 8,000 and 10,500 pounds of weight before the line was strained.
Another option is coated double-braided polyester. Again, urethane protects the tow line, and double-braiding adds more durability. That said, compared to coated polyester 12-strand line, coated double-braided polyester is not as powerful. Its strain weight is only around 6,500 pounds.
For single riders not ascending to high altitudes, the parasail company might use uncoated double-braided polyester. This has no extra protection so its life isn’t as long, yet its strain limit is still 6,500 pounds.
How Do You Know the Parasailing Company Uses Quality Rope?
Now that you’re better acquainted with the different types of tow rope out there, how can you be sure whether the parasailing company uses quality rope? The best way to know is to do some research into the company. Check their website, especially their FAQs page, which should have all sorts of pertinent info on their parasailing experience.
If you still have more questions, you can always call or visit the parasailing company to discuss their tow rope of choice. If it’s polyester or Spectra, then you can rest assured the rope is sufficient for parasailing. Even uncoated double-braided polyester rope is a suitable choice in some situations, although it’s always better if the rope is coated so it lasts longer.
Can Parasail Rope Snap?
Being aware that the only thing connecting you to the captain is a strand of parasail line can make you nervous. What if the captain drives the boat too quickly and the rope snaps? Maybe it’s a windy day and the rope can’t take it?
We want to make clear that, in everyday parasailing, this doesn’t happen often. The captain is extensively trained and has many years of experience in commandeering parasailing trips. He or she knows how quickly to accelerate to lift you to the appropriate height per the amount of tow rope available.
What about too much weight causing the parasail line to snap? That’s why parasail companies ask for your weight before you ride. We discussed this on the blog here if you want to learn more. The weight limit for parasailers is 100 to 500 pounds, sometimes as high as 800 pounds. That’s not the limit for single riders, of course, but groups of three.
All that said, parasail lines have snapped in the past. Here’s one such report from Men’s Journal about a parasailing duo in Malta who experienced this worst-case scenario. The article clearly mentions though that a “freak storm” with high winds made the captain’s boat tip, causing the line to snap not too long after.
This YouTube video from Inside Edition tells the story of a woman parasailing in Mexico whose line snapped, but this too was storm-related. She, like the Malta parasailers, survived.
What would happen if your parasail line snapped? Well, you’d no longer be attached to the captain’s boat. You’re in the air, and your parachute is still catching the breeze, but now you’re free-floating. In stormy conditions, the heavy winds could send you flying quickly through the air, possibly landing in the ocean or on the nearby shoreline.
Depending on how quickly you landed, you could sustain cuts, bruises, and lacerations, or even broken bones. Death could be possible, but with 70 parasailing deaths over 30 years, not very likely.
It’s good to be aware of any and all risks when parasailing, but the line snapping is not one you should have to worry too much about.
A parasail rope is between 300 and 800 feet long, with the length adjustable depending on your desired altitude. Most rope is made of Spectra or polyester, sometimes even a blend of both. Depending on the material, the tow rope has a certain load-bearing weight limit it can sustain before it would snap.
Yes, parasail lines do snap, but it’s a rare occurrence. When it does happen, it’s typically due to sudden storms, not negligence on the part of the parasailing company!
We hope this information instills confidence in you to book a parasailing trip.
Parasailing looks like so much fun, and the videos you’ve seen on YouTube of people doing it almost make it seem easy. Admittedly, you have some fears, okay, make that a lot of fears. You’re so high up in the sky with nothing but water below you! What if something happens? Is parasailing as dangerous as it seems?
You’re trying to plan a fun outdoor adventure with a partner or even the whole family. A buddy of yours recommended parasailing, but isn’t that scarier than it is exciting? Can parasailing be fun and what do you need to make the experience better?