It looks fun and carefree. The boat is pulling the person with a parachute. Hundreds of feet high in the air, there sits someone laughing and giggling as they dangle their feet from a harness. Almost always, it’s a tourist who decided to really let go during vacation. There’s probably not much thought about safety because everybody does it, so it must be safe.
The New York Times recently reported on the dangers of parasailing. In Florida, there are upwards of 120 parasailing companies operating during peak season. Not surprisingly, more people strap into harnesses over those Florida seas, than anywhere else. Unknown to most is that there is almost no regulation across the entire United States.
Vacation causes people to relax. So, people don’t think about safety or whether the harnesses and equipment have been inspected. In Florida, the only requirement for parasailing is that the boat must be seaworthy and the captain must have a valid boating license.
The information on parasailing injuries and deaths are a bit sketchy. Worldwide, it is estimated that there have been 72 parasailing deaths since 1982; and there have been 4 deaths in Florida in the last two years.
Since this blog is written from a Virginia law slant, here is the good news; Only two states have some form of parasailing laws and regulations: Virginia and New Jersey.
Virginia Code Section 29.1-735.3 grants authority to the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries to regulate parasail operators. Some of the regulations include requirements for the harness size, how secure the parasail canopy will be and the time that a boat can go out before as it relates to sunrise and sunset. The law also addresses how close the boat can be to the shoreline. Maybe that’s why we don’t see a lot of parasailing operators on the Virginia coast.
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of parasailing. Maybe you’re in the Bahamas; it’s perfect weather and it sure looks fun. Maybe you’ll stop and consider the circumstances. You’ll look at that boat before jumping into the harness and think how just about anyone can stick a boat in the water and start charging to put you in that harness and send you up in that parachute. Maybe it would just be safer and more relaxing to just take a drive to Washington D.C.
For pic o’ day, I thought I would post a picture that seems festive and “vacation-like”: