How Much Does a Parasail Captain Make?

The parasail captain or boat operator guides each parasail trip. To you, spending your days on the beach on a boat sounds pretty awesome, and you’re definitely considering this career path. Does a parasail captain earn a lot of money? How much?

Parasail captains may make $10 to $28 per hour depending on where in the country they work as well as which boating company employs them. Per year, that’s between $21,450 and $54,600. 

If you want to learn everything there is about working as a parasail captain, then you’ve come to the right place. In this article, we’ll elaborate further on the earnings potential of boat operators and discuss how you can get into this exciting line of work.

How Much Money Can You Make as a Parasail Captain?

As we said in the intro, no parasailing trip can occur without the parasail captain or boat operator. They determine when it’s safe to set sail, what the weight limit will be for that day based on weather, how high you go when parasailing, and how fast.

With such an important job, how much does a parasail captain earn?

The hourly income for a parasail captain is $11 to $28. 

Where do those numbers come from? We compiled several resources.

The first is Glassdoor, which lists the salary information for working as a boat captain at Eagle Parasail, which our research suggests is in Madeira Beach, Florida. The hourly pay is $10 to $11, but the data is from 2018, so it may not be current. 

At $10 an hour, you’d make about $19,500 a year. Earning $11 an hour would bump up your earnings to $21,450 annually. 

Indeed has salary information for parasailing captains in Marina del Rey, California. Per that site’s data, you might earn $14.27 an hour. However, the salary data from Indeed, in this case, is an aggregate of five employees’ salaries, so it may not be indicative of all boat captain earnings in California. If you did bring home that much, you’d have an annual income of about $27,826.50.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS has earnings information for water transportation workers. That occupation seems to fit the description of a parasail captain well. Keep in mind though that this data is not for parasail captains specifically, as they’re not mentioned by name.

Per the BLS data, a water transportation worker might earn $27.56 an hour, which is $57,330 a year. According to BLS, in 2019, there were 81,900 water transportation workers in the country. The job outlook between 2019 and 2029 is not expected to change much, with only 200 jobs projected to be added.

That salary may seem high, but Indeed has another listing for boat captains in Hawaii that’s more current, as the info was updated in January 2021. According to Indeed, by averaging 10 salaries, boat captains in this state make $27.72 an hour, which is about what the BLS data suggests. 

What Kind of Experience Do You Need to Work as a Parasail Captain?

Now that we’ve gotten the discussion of money out of the way, how would you become a parasail captain anyway? The same way you get a job as any type of boat captain: through time, education, and licensing.

Here are the steps to follow.

Earn Your Sea Legs

Since you’ll someday captain a boat unsupervised, you must be an expert in boating inside and out. According to the Maritime Institute of Technology and Graduate Studies or MITAGS, which provides maritime training to future boat captains, being a crew member or captaining your own boat both count as sufficient experience. Even if you’re volunteering, interning, or otherwise not getting paid for your time on the boat, the experience is what matters most here. 

MITAGS does say that when trying to find work as captain of a parasailing boat that you’ll probably begin your quest working as a deckhand. What is a deckhand, you ask? This is someone who oversees equipment operations throughout the boat. You also keep the equipment in tip-top shape. You’d work with other deckhands as part of the boat crew.

Take a Boating Exam

Once you feel like you have adequate experience under your belt, it’s time to move on to the next phase, which is taking and passing an exam issued through the US Coast Guard. You’ll be quizzed on areas like deck care, marlinspike seamanship, and general boating techniques and knowledge.

Since passing this test is the only way to earn your boating license, taking the time to prepare and study is crucial. You might enroll in a maritime school to brush up on your boating knowledge so you’re ready for what’s to come.

Applying for Your License

If you passed, then congratulations! You now need to apply for your license through the Coast Guard. Before they just hand the license over to you, the Coast Guard first requires that you successfully pass proof of drug screening as well as a physical checkup. 

Not all licenses are the same, by the way. Per MITAGS, here are three types of boating licenses:

  • Master Near Coastal: To get a Master Near Coastal license, you must spend at least 360 days in ocean waters and have 720 days of boating experience overall. With this license, you can venture off 200 miles from the coast when boating in inland waters. 
  • Master Inland: A Master Inland license only lets you operate your boat within inland water boundaries. You can earn this license faster, as 180 days of ocean experience are required and 360 days of overall boating experience. 
  • Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vehicles: The six-pack license called the Operator of Uninspected Passenger Vehicles or OUPV limits your passengers to six people max. 

How Do You Find Work as a Parasail Captain?

Once you’re a licensed boat operator, getting a job as a parasail captain will become a lot easier. You may even have an easier time still if you live in a popular tourist destination or close enough to one. For example, parasailing is incredibly popular in Florida. 

Other areas like Seattle, Myrtle Beach in South Carolina, and Point Pleasant Beach in New Jersey are also major destinations for parasailing. Unlike California and Florida though, some parts of the country do have parasailing off-seasons during the autumn and winter.

We’d recommend treating this like any other job search. Spruce up your resume, write an awesome cover letter per application, and use job boards. Connect with your network of both professional and personal contacts and see if anyone has an opening for you. 

Is There Room for Advancement (and More Money) Working as a Parasail Captain?

Once you earn the coveted role of parasail captain, can you advance within your chosen career path? If you’re talking about going a step up the corporate ladder, not really. The parasail captain is already the most significant role in any parasailing company except for maybe the owner. 

Your income could increase, but it’s hard to say for sure. The parasailing company you work for might offer you a raise. You can also receive tips from parasailers, although how much money this amounts to is anyone’s guess. Besides, other employees like the crew might have to get their cut of a tip too. 

Some parasailing companies let the captain pocket the fees that parasailers pay for photos and/or videos of their trip. That, like everything else we’ve discussed in this section, is by no means guaranteed. 

Is Being a Parasail Captain Worth It? The Pros and Cons

If you’re still thinking about finding work as a parasail captain, make sure you read this section full of the pros and cons of the job. 

First, here are the undeniable perks. 

You Get to Be at the Beach Every Day

Most working people dream of leaving their stuffy offices or gray cubicles to escape to the beach. Not you! As a parasail captain, you wouldn’t ever have to work indoors, but out on the beach. You won’t have time to splash and play on the clock, but you would be amongst the warm sea and sand all day every day, and who wouldn’t love that? 

You Meet a Lot of Interesting People

You also don’t have to worry about isolation at your job. Each day, you’re introduced to a litany of new customers. Some are going parasailing for the first time while others are seasoned regulars. All have a story to tell, a lot of which you’ll get to hear!

You’re Helping People Make Memories That Will Last a Lifetime 

A job where you help people doesn’t necessarily mean you have to work as a doctor or firefighter. Putting smiles on people’s faces is good enough for some, and if so, becoming a parasail captain will be very fulfilling. Each time you go out on another trip, you’re helping parasailers make incredible, lasting memories!

We have to talk about downsides too, so here are some occupational hazards of working as a parasail captain. 

Potentially Low Earnings Potential

On the higher end of the earnings scale, being a parasail captain is pretty sweet. Yet if you’re only making $10 or $11 an hour, the luster of the job wears off fast. According to Minimum, that little income is considered minimum wage in a lot of US states. 

Even making $14 an hour is still minimum wage or just barely above it. You might be able to live off this money if you have a studio apartment, but if you want a nice car, a house, or a family, you’d need a better-paying job.

Either that, or you’d have to find where all the $27-an-hour parasailing gigs are! 

You Have to Make Tough Judgment Calls

As much as you can make people smile as a parasail captain, sometimes you have to derail their vacation plans as well. For instance, if it’s an especially windy day and the weather pattern was not forecasted, you have to make a quick yet important judgment call. You may decide to let only single riders fly or even shut down parasailing for the day.

If Someone Get Seriously Hurt (or Worse), It’s on You

We have to share this article from the Water Sports Industry Association or WSIA from 2014 about becoming a parasail captain. The article details an experience of a parasail company owner. One of their captains had an accident and a parasailer died while another was seriously hurt.

The parasail company ended up being indicted and the captain was arrested even though he tried to save both the woman and her daughter (who did survive). 

Parasailing is a very safe activity, but accidents can happen. As the parasail captain, you need to do whatever is in your power to avoid these accidents and then quickly save lives if such an incident occurs. If you don’t or can’t, then it’s your conscience that could feel it for years, not to mention you could lose your license and even face jailtime. Those are some heavy consequences to have to live with. 

Final Thoughts 

Working as a parasail captain, you’d bring in $10 to $27 an hour. Now that you know what the job entails and what the advantages and disadvantages are, you have all the info you need to decide whether working as a parasail captain is right for you. 

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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