The First Days of Parasailing in Hawaii.

Apr 30, 2021 | General Information

Parasailing wasn’t introduced as an activity in Hawaii until the early 1980’s. It was popular from the start but it was operated in a completely different manner in those days. It’s lucky you might be thinking about doing it now instead of then because its methods of implementation had a lot to be desired.

Whereas today parasailing is fairly high-tech and designed for comfort and safety the original days were a bit of a reach in those regards. The winch system that is used today where you are reeled out and back from a small platform attached to the back of the speedy parasail boats had not yet evolved. Instead the clients (thrill seekers) began their aerial adventure from the deck of a separate floating platform located a short distance from shore. Participants were brought out to the platform and then fitted into their parasail harness. When completed the parasail line was clipped on as you stood fully upright on the platform and the slack in the few-hundred foot line was brought taunt by the maneuvering of the captain of the speedboat that was to pull you on your 10 minute journey.

Being more of an art than a science, the experienced captain would synchronize his efforts with one of the crew on the platform through a series of hand signals that would let him know that the exact moment had arrived when the accelerator should be punched as additional crew on the platform would throw the actual parachute sail up in the air at that precise second with the intention of inflating the sail behind the parasailer and launch he or she into the Hawaiian sky. It was great when it worked. In all actuality it did work most of the time but quite often it did not and the result would be that an unfortunate misfire would take place where the parasail would not inflate and the hapless client would either be pulled into the water and dragged fifty feet or so before the captain could kill the throttle as the crew would jump into the water to bring the client back to the relative safety of the platform or, worse yet, all the aforementioned would happen except prior to that the client would actually be dragged on his knees on the platform before being dragged the fifty feet of so in the water.

As if that was not enough excitement, once a successful launch had occurred and the flight was coming to an end the captain was once again relied upon to use his skill to navigate the parasail back to the platform where the crew were waiting with hands outstretched to snatch the client from the air and guide him safely down to the platform. That was also good when it worked. The occasional missing of the platform in the descent was not uncommon and the ‘man overboard’ routine was once again implemented.

All in all it made for an exciting journey for all concerned but the innovations of today’s much more advanced and more polished methods for launch and return make the parasailing experience a much more enjoyable one.