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Soaring High: An Introduction to the Thrilling Sport of Parascending and Parasailing

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Parascending, also often referred to as parasailing, is an aerial sport that has been enjoyed for many years by both frequent parascenders as well holidaymakers looking for a thrilling change to lying on a beach. 

It involves an ascent into the sky while being connected to a parasail (parachute) and being pulled along by a boat (or some other vehicle). If you’re a newcomer to the activity, this guide delves into it and answers some of the commonest questions.

What’s the difference between Parascending and Parasailing?

Parascending and parasailing are terms that are often used interchangeably to refer to the same aerial sport. Both involve being lifted into the air attached to a parachute while being towed by a boat or a vehicle. 

The difference between the two terms, if any, is largely regional. In the UK, the British Hang Gliding & Paragliding Association (BHPA) refers to parascending as a group activity in which pilots fly canopies that are towed into the air by a Land Rover or winch. They also make a distinction between the round or square parachutes and the paraglider type of canopy.

Parscenders that are towed in this way can ascend to up to 2,000 ft before release of the cable.  The pilots then descend to a target on the ground or continue with a cross-country flight.

Overall, the two terms refer to the same activity, and the use of one term over the other is not significant, but it is distinct from paragliding and paramotoring.

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Many people try ascending for the first time while on holiday
Image by Yinan Chen from Pixabay

What precisely is Parascending?

Parascending is a leisure pursuit that affords a vantage point of the world from above like no other. Participants are linked to a parachute that is secured to a boat and raised into the air. The boat moves forward, towing the parascender along with it, offering an aerial perspective of the surrounding surroundings.

Where does one partake in Parascending?

Parascending can be experienced in many locations where there is a body of water, large open fields or airfields, and suitable weather conditions. The optimal weather conditions for parasailing are clear skies, light winds, and warm temperatures.

Who partakes in Parascending?

It’s an activity that can be enjoyed by individuals of all ages and skill levels. Whether you are an adrenaline seeker seeking a new challenge or a family seeking a fun day out, parascending offers something for everyone. There are no strict age or physical prerequisites to participate in this aerial sport, making it accessible to most.

What equipment is required for Parascending?

It requires very little equipment, most of which are provided by the instructor or providing company. The essential equipment for parasailing includes a parasail, tow rope, harness, helmet, and a life jacket if the ascent is over water. The parasail is composed of a durable fabric and constructed to withstand the wind and weather conditions. 

The tow rope is attached to the boat, vehicle (or winch) and the parascender, enabling them to be lifted into the air. The harness is worn by the parascender and provides a secure connection to the parasail. The life jacket is a safety requirement and must be worn at all times.

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Two people parascending together
Photo by Joe deSousa on Unsplash

What training is required for Parascending?

It’s a relatively safe sport, but it is still imperative to receive proper instruction before participating. Most companies provide training sessions for participants, instructing them on the proper techniques for ascending and landing. The training sessions also cover important safety guidelines and emergency procedures. 

Parascending pilots in the UK are taught how to perform a PLF (parachute landing fall) first.  They are towed to low heights to begin with, just while they get used to the descent and landing.  Once they have mastered the basics they proceed to greater heights and, if they desire, self release so that they can drop the tow cable and continue on their own. 

Is Parascending dangerous?

Parascending, like any adventure sport, can carry some risk. However, when properly executed with the proper training and equipment, it is generally considered safe. Most companies adhere to strict safety guidelines and provide proper training to participants. It is important for participants to follow the instructions provided by the instructor and to follow all safety guidelines to minimise the risk of injury.

However, as with any outdoor activity, the risk of injury or harm can be increased by factors such as inclement weather, operator error, or equipment failure. For this reason, it is essential to choose a reputable and experienced parascending company and to follow all safety guidelines provided by the instructor.


Parascending is an enthralling and unparalleled aerial spectacle that provides a vantage point of the world from above like no other. Whether you are a seasoned parascender or a newcomer to the activity, this pursuit is accessible to most. With proper training and equipment, parascending is a safe and breathtaking adventure that is certain to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime. So why not don a parasail and experience the thrill of parasailing for yourself!

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