Is Parasailing Like a Roller Coaster?

You’re in the beginning stages of planning a family vacation. One activity you keep getting recommended is parasailing, but you’re just not sure. You’re looking for a fun outing, not heart-pounding thrills. Is going parasailing really akin to riding a roller coaster?

No, parasailing and riding a roller coaster are two totally different experiences. Most parasailing trips are relaxing ones where the riders feel calm enough to take pictures and marvel at the sights. That’s not the case when on a roller coaster! 

Are you curious where the comparisons to parasailing and riding a roller coaster come from? In this post, we’ll tell you. We’ll also provide more information on what parasailing is really like, including your top speeds and height. You’re not going to want to miss it! 

What Does Parasailing Feel Like?

While you’re relieved to hear that parasailing and riding a roller coaster are disparate, you still have your doubts about parasailing. What does it feel like to be lifted into the air over the ocean?

Allow us to tell you!

Putting on Your Equipment

Before anything happens, you’ll meet the boat operator, also known as the captain. They’ll be the one leading your day of parasailing, as your tow line will be attached to their boat. After the introductions, the captain will go over the rules of parasailing, including an overview of what to expect so there are no surprises once you’re up in the air.

Your captain should also provide information on how to handle an emergency should one arise. This isn’t seriously likely, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry! 

You’ll also receive your equipment for parasailing, including a helmet and life jacket.

Being Strapped In

At this point, it will begin to feel real that you’re going parasailing because you’ll be strapped in. You have your pick of rigs when parasailing, either a gondola or harness. Both types of rigs provide vastly different experiences, so choose carefully.

With a gondola setup, you sit down. If you’re seeking a more relaxing, low-intensity parasail ride, then ask the boat operator for a gondola (or order gondola seating when you make your parasailing reservation). The harness setup requires you to hang, which can be scary for a lot of people.

If you recall our article about parasailing safety statistics, you’re less likely to have an injury or incident when using a gondola setup versus a harness. Over a 30-year span, 520 people suffered parasailing injuries when in a harness versus two people hurt from a gondola. 


Now that you and your fellow passengers (provided you’re not riding alone) are all strapped in, your captain will return to their seat in the boat. As the boat begins moving, the wind from the motion will catch your parachute, allowing you to ascend.

Given that parasailing is completely dependent on nature, unlike a roller coaster, takeoff is admittedly different each time. That said, it’s not so unpredictable that you have to worry. 

You might feel some trepidation during your first parasailing adventure once you begin going higher in the air. After all, there’s no turning back now. This sense of nervousness is totally natural and usually dissipates once you realize it’s not so bad to be at the max height. 

How do you gain height? The boat will continue driving away, creating more distance between you and the captain. Your height increases as the distance does.


You’ll be aware of the max height you’ll reach ahead of time, at least thereabouts. The captain knows how to drive their boat to help you and your passengers reach that height. 

When you get there, now comes the fun part, when you can hover and glide through the air! You’re at full mast now, so take advantage of the moment by snapping some photos. More so, just try to enjoy it as much as you can, as it doesn’t last forever. If your ride is only 30 minutes, then you’ll spend about 20 minutes in the air, maybe a bit more. 


What goes up must come down, and that goes for you as well when parasailing. The same way that you ascended is how you descend to land, but in reverse. In other words, rather than extend the distance between you and the boat operator, now they’re coming to a stop, reducing that distance.

This will naturally bring you down, but it’s very gradual. You never feel like you’re being yanked out of the air, nor that you’re riding down a big hill like you would on a roller coaster. There is no sensation of your stomach dropping either. It’s all very leisurely.


When you reach land, you’ll be undone from your parasailing rig and take off your equipment, returning it to the boat operator. Then you’re free to go home and tell everyone about what an exciting day you had! 

Why Does Parasailing Get Likened to Riding a Roller Coaster?

You know better now than to describe parasailing like riding a big roller coaster. However, if the two aren’t alike, then why do they get compared to one another so often? As far as we can tell, it’s probably for the following few reasons. 

You’re Strapped in Tight

Both parasailing and riding a roller coaster involve you ascending to some height (we’ll talk about this more in the next section). For your safety then, you must be strapped in tightly in your seat–or, in the case of a parasailing harness–just strapped in period. 

Slow Ascension

When riding a roller coaster, the ascent up the lift hill is always slow. This builds up the anticipation of what’s on the other side of that hill. Parasailing also has a slow ascent, but it’s not to create tension. Rather, the boat operator has to get distance from you, and this takes a moment or several. 

Parasailing Can Have Some Dips, Twists, and Turns

The last reason that some people might compare parasailing to riding a roller coaster is that the former can have some excitement too if that’s what you want. The boat operator can dip you down low so you touch the water or you can do a bit of turning and twisting in the air.

Keep in mind that this isn’t the default parasailing experience. You have to ask the captain for these things specifically or they won’t happen. 

How High Do You Go When Parasailing?

Let’s talk a bit more about your max parasailing height. The Federal Aviation Administration or FAA established the regulations about how high you can fly, which is no more than 800 feet. The average height is more like 500 feet.

Okay, but what if you don’t like heights? Well, a blogger at Future Expat wrote about her parasailing ride, and the post is certainly worth a read. That blogger admits that she’s terrified of heights, in that she can’t even ascend on an escalator without gripping the railing. Yet she had a blast when parasailing and wasn’t afraid at all.

Will this be the case for everyone? Not necessarily. If you have a severe fear of heights, you can always ask the captain to keep your height low to the water. You might also want to reconsider parasailing. 

How Fast Do You Go When Parasailing?

Is parasailing fast, especially once you’re up in the air? It can be, but again, it all comes down to what you ask for from the captain. The average parasailing speed is 15 miles per hour. You’ve surely driven at that speed in your car before. You’re not going very fast at all. Instead, the pace is controlled and unhurried.

Some parasailing trips double that speed, but you shouldn’t ever go faster than 30 MPH. Even that pace, while faster, doesn’t feel like you’re rushing through the sky uncontrollably.

Traveling at 30 MPH is like a turtle’s pace when you’re riding a roller coaster. To put it into perspective, here are some of the world’s most beloved wooden and steel roller coasters as well as their top speeds:

  • The Beast at Kings Island, Ohio – 64.8 MPH
  • American Eagle at Six Flags Great America, Illinois – 66 MPH
  • The Boss at Six Flags St. Louis, Missouri – 66.3 MPH
  • The Voyage at Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari, Indiana – 67.4 MPH
  • Outlaw Run at Silver Dollar City, Missouri – 68 MPH
  • Colossos – Kampf der Giganten at Heide Park, Germany – 68 MPH
  • El Toro at Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey – 70 MPH
  • Wildfire at Kolmarden Wildlife Park, Sweden – 70.2 MPH
  • Goliath at Six Flags Great America, Illinois – 72 MPH
  • Lightning Rod at Dollywood, Tennessee – 73 MPH 
  • Leviathan at Canada’s Wonderland, Canada – 92 MPH
  • Millennium Force at Cedar Point, Ohio – 93 MPH
  • Fury 325 at Carowinds, North Carolina – 93 MPH
  • Steel Dragon 2000 at Nagashima Spa Land, Japan – 95 MPH
  • Ring Racer at Nurburgring, Germany – 99.4 MPH
  • Superman: Escape from Krypton at Six Flags Magic Mountain, California – 100 MPH
  • Red Force at Ferrari Land, Spain – 112 MPH
  • Do-Dodonpa at Fuji-Q Highland, Japan – 112 MPH
  • Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point, Ohio – 120 MPH
  • Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure, New Jersey – 128 MPH
  • Formula Rossa at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates – 149 MPH

There you go. Even the slowest coaster on that list, the wooden coaster known as The Beast at Kings Island, is about double your top speed when parasailing.   

Final Thoughts

Parasailing often gets lumped in as being like riding a roller coaster. In reality, the two couldn’t be more separate. You do tend to ascend more when parasailing than when riding a roller coaster, but it’s relaxing instead of heart-pumping. You also go a whole lot slower so you can enjoy the beauty around you at your unique vantage point.

We hope this article helped alleviate some of your parasailing fears so you feel more comfortable booking a trip! 

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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?

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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