Is Parasailing Safe? (With Safety Statistics)


Not too long ago, we published this post, which included a list of 10 activities more dangerous than parasailing. Many of those were everyday activities too. Perhaps you need even further reinforcement regarding the safety of parasailing, such as with safety statistics. Until then, you’ll truly wonder, is parasailing safe?

Parasailing is indeed safe, as the activity has led to only 70 deaths in 30 years according to the Parasail Safety Council. In that same span, 1,800 people were injured. Up to 170 million parasailing rides occurred, which means millions of people parasailed without incident over the last three decades. 

In this article, we’ll expound further on the above statistics as well as share plenty of others that cement the safety of parasailing. We’ll also delve into what causes parasailing accidents and how you can be a safer parasailer. You’re not going to want to miss it! 

Parasailing Safety Statistics

The Parasail Safety Council is the entity that logs accidents, injuries, and fatalities centered around parasailing. Their site is also interesting in that it covers the history of parasailing since the 1960s, which perhaps we’ll revisit someday!

Right now, it’s all about parasailing safety statistics. We have more than 30 years’ worth of data thanks to the Parasail Safety Council. From the period of 1982 to 2012, which is 30 years, the organization recorded 170 million parasail trips. 

Of all those rides, 1,800 people injured themselves. That’s not in one year, remember, but over a span of 30 years. That would mean parasailing leads to an average of 60 injuries a year provided an equal number of injuries occurred year after year. 

Here’s another way of putting it: 169,998,200 parasailers were never so much as scratched up during their respective rides.

Deaths occurred at an even lower rate, only 70 deaths over that 30-year period. Again assuming an equal number of deaths logged year after year, that’s an average of 2.3 deaths a year. Far more people die from everyday activities like driving and hiking than parasailing.

Some parasailers, 29 million, relied on gondolas during their rides. Many more, 141 million, trusted in harnesses instead. What’s the difference? These are the two most popular parasailing rigs. In a gondola, you sit, whereas with a harness, you’re hanging.  

Unsurprisingly then, the Parasail Safety Council reports that fewer accidents occurred when using a gondola than a harness. Two people in 30 years were injured from a gondola rig and 520 people from a harness. Those injuries were regarded as more serious, as the victims needed to be hospitalized. 

What Leads to Parasailing Accidents?

Those are interesting statistics, that’s for sure. You also feel better knowing that so few people are injured parasailing and that even fewer have died. 

Still, we’re sure you’re extremely safety-minded or you wouldn’t be reading this article. That’s why we thought we’d unpack some of the information from the last section and take a closer look into what causes parasailing accidents, even some fatal ones. 

Failure to Follow Instructions

If you’re parasailing for the first or second time, you’re never going to do it by yourself (or at least, you shouldn’t!). You’ll be guided by an expert who will likely be working with a crew. When you’re instructed to do something, please don’t act like you know better, because you don’t.

By doing what you want rather than what you’re asked to do, your risk of injury and even death goes up significantly. To be safe, go into your parasailing trip with the expectation that your mind is like a sponge. You want to soak up and absorb as much info as you can so you can use it in the future when you do eventually parasail with less supervision.

Using an Old Harness

If you have questions about the integrity of your harness, then please talk to your instructor or a member of their crew. You might think you’re being too cautious, but it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially in this case.

Old parasailing equipment that has long since seen its day should not be in use anymore. Any parasailing company worth its salt will keep detailed records of who owns the equipment, when it was bought, who the manufacturer is, and how long the equipment has been in use. That goes for even if the parasailing company buys the equipment from someone else.

There is at least one parasailing death that was caused by using faulty, old equipment. As detailed in the National Transportation Safety Board’s Parasailing Safety Special Investigation Report, the incident occurred in August 2012 in Pompano Beach, Florida.

A woman, only 28 years old, was parasailing when she fell from the sky to her death. Her safety harness, which was supposed to keep her secure in her rig, stopped working. When the NTSB looked more closely into the incident, the organization found that the harness was very old, with significant wear and tear, and its use should have been discontinued years ago. 

It’s unclear if this woman’s death is included in the death statistics for parasailing, as we’re not sure which month in 2012 the Parasail Safety Council stopped its reporting. 

Blustery Winds

Sure, a bit of wind is necessary to launch you and keep you up in the air when parasailing, but there’s a difference between a pleasant breeze and a blustery storm wind. Mark McCulloh of the Parasail Safety Council recommends that if the winds exceed 15 miles per hour that you cancel your ride until a lighter day. 

Some states, such as Florida, have laws that allow for higher winds, up to 20 MPH before parasailing would be considered unsafe. Since you’re the one who’s going up in the air, if you have reservations or feel uncomfortable, it’s your duty to say something.

Harness Passenger Support System Issues

The harness passenger support system is there to keep you safe, but sometimes you need to get out of it at a moment’s notice. For instance, if the winds are high and your boat operator decided to stop and you’ll land in the water, the harness can weigh you down.

Many, many parasailing deaths, up to 95 percent, can occur from harness passenger support system issues like being unable to escape when necessary. 

Towline Weakness

Last but certainly not least is one of the most significant causes of parasailing accidents, and that’s problems with the towline. The towline, also known as the tow rope, is your connection to your towing vehicle. 

Whichever vehicle happens to tow you, such as a boat, is tied to that towline. Should the line snap or otherwise come undone, you can imagine how dangerous that can potentially be. 

Besides the structural soundness of the towline, how it’s tied also matters. The NTSB, in the above-linked report, stated that tying a towline in a traditional bowline style can weaken the rope significantly, even if said rope is new. The towline may now be 53 to 63 percent weaker, which is a very big deal.

Okay, so how should you tie the towline instead? The NTSB recommends a spliced eye, which doesn’t reduce towline strength. 

Planning a Parasailing Trip? What to Know Before You Go

You know some areas to watch out for the next time you go parasailing, but there’s more yet that you can do to be a conscientious rider. Here are some tips for prepping for your ride. 

Keep Your Distance from the Shoreline

Is it more dangerous to crash into the water than the shoreline? Both can be equally damaging depending on the context of the accident. Still, the issue with some boat operators is they think it’s more exciting for parasailers to be close to the shore. This is not something you should accept from your operator.

You want to keep 1,500 feet from the shoreline if your operator releases 500 feet of towline. Any closer than that and you’re at risk of incident or injury.

Don’t just assume your boat operator will do the right thing. Bring the matter up in a conversation before you’re in the air. It’s too late to do anything at that point!

Sit in a Gondola

Up to 520 rather serious injuries occurred when parasailers used a harness rig. That’s still over the course of 30 years, but only two people were injured from sitting in a gondola when parasailing in that same timespan. Yes, it’s more exciting to hang, but you want to be safe, so stay seated.

Know the Wind Speed

Remember that Florida parasailing wind law we linked you to earlier? It turns out they’re the only state across the country with such a law. Since it’s ultimately your choice whether you go parasailing in high winds or not, if the winds are over 15 MPH, you might want to think about rescheduling. 

Ask to See the Equipment

Another assumption you don’t want to make is that your parasailing company is necessarily using the newest equipment. Before you’re buckled in, ask if you can see the safety equipment the company intends on using. 

If it seems a little worn down to you, it’s alright to ask about documentation so you can ascertain the age of the equipment. If the operator isn’t willing to provide such information, then you probably don’t want to go through with the parasail ride. 

Final Thoughts

Parasailing is considered quite a safe sport considering there have been fewer than 100 deaths in over 30 years. Still, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do everything you can to ensure a safe experience each and every time. Confirm that your equipment is in optimal shape, check in with your boat operator before you take off, and always track the wind speed ahead of your trip. Best of luck and be safe out there! 

Related Content

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? Here are 10 things more dangerous than parasailing!

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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