Many are drawn to parasailing adventures because of the allure of flying high over the ocean. Sadly, parasailing companies and operators remain largely unregulated and the equipment they use is oftentimes not being tested to meet reasonable safety standards. Before you or a loved one gets drawn in by the glossy photos and the appeal of soaring through the sky, some basic safety questions should always be considered so you can prevent a parasailing accident.
In a report titled “Parasailing Safety”, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) explains that parasailing remains largely unregulated despite the inherent dangers of the sport. Currently, there are no federal regulations or guidelines in place to determine the safety of parasailing operating companies, even though over three million people participate in the sport each year.
Unfortunately, operators often decide to take guests out in adverse weather conditions, leading to serious and even deadly accidents. In some cases, operators were found to be using incorrect towlines, while in other instances, gear, including harnesses, was worn out to the point of being unusable.
So, what can beachgoers do to keep themselves safe if they decide to go parasailing this summer?
For one, it’s important to familiarize yourself with basic parasailing safety and the operator’s track record (i.e. what kind of equipment they use, whether or not they have permits, their experience, and accident history). Before signing any waivers and committing to the activity, you have a right to inspect the towline and harnesses that will be used for evidence of wear and tear. Do not proceed if the harness or line have visual fraying or wear and tear. The harness and towline are your lifeline. If these snap or break, you’ll fall and likely suffer serious injuries.
Parasail instructors should also inform you about safety risks before you sign a waiver and should offer you a briefing on how to properly brace yourself for landing in the water. You should also receive a safety briefing of how you ought to handle high-wind conditions should they arise, and how you can rescue yourself from the harness if you land in rough waters. Don’t parasail with a company that won’t go over risks and safety measures before you begin.
Finally, the parasailing operator should know and observe safe parasailing distances from the shoreline. You should always stay three times as far away from the shore as the length of your towline. Some of the most serious parasailing accidents that have occurred take place when a towline breaks or detaches from a boat and parasailers drift onto shore and then fall onto land. Keeping a safe distance from the shore will make such a serious emergency less likely. Ask your operator how much tow line will be reeled out and how far they plan to go offshore. If the operator can’t give you specifics, you should see this as a clear red flag.
While parasailing can be an exhilarating activity when it is performed safely, sadly, many operators are either not qualified or don’t have the proper equipment to ensure a safe ride for participants. Being informed about the risks and basic safety tenets of parasailing before you hit the water will make it more likely that you’ll choose an operator that puts safety first. If an accident does occur, it’s important to seek legal counsel with a parasailing accident lawyer who can help protect your rights.