Check3GPS Readiness Quotient

Your supervisor may use the following checklist to determine if you have adequately addressed the risk factors for parasailing. If you can answer “yes” to all the questions below, you should be good to go!

1. Have you researched the reputation (checked reviews, accident history, equipment maintenance logs, etc.) of the company with which you will be parasailing?  


2. Is the towing boat operator licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard?


3. Will you be launched from and landed on a platform on the boat vs. the beach?


4. Each time you parasail, do you inquire about the age, inspection and maintenance of the equipment, including ropes, canopy, harnesses and life vests?  


5. Each time you parasail, do you personally inspect your canopy (for tears), harnesses (to make sure all hooks and latches work and straps are not torn or frayed), and rope and yoke?  


6.Does the company provide a safety briefing for all passengers?


7. Does the company issue U.S. Coast Guard-approved life preservers?  

Top Hazards And How To Mitigate Them


Mitigate: The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) “Standard Practices for Parasailing” provide guidelines and procedures for the operation, maintenance and inspection of parasailing vessels, equipment and associated activities. However, adherence to these standards is strictly voluntary; parasailing operators are not mandated by any federal laws. Furthermore, only three states in the nation (Florida, New Jersey and Virginia) have parasailing-specific laws. Fly only with parasailing operators who follow the ATSM standard practices. 


Mitigate: The majority of parasailing injuries and deaths are caused by broken tow ropes. According to the National Transportation and Safety Bureau (NTSB) Special Report on Parasailing Safety, a knot commonly used to fasten tow ropes reduces rope strength by as much as 70 percent. Wind, saltwater and sun can weaken ropes even more. Other equipment can also be faulty, as in the case of a worn-out harness separating from the flight bar in mid-air, resulting in the death of its passenger. Since there are no federal laws regulating the inspection or maintenance of parasailing equipment, it is up to you to check out the condition of the harness, ropes and canopy; look for obvious signs of wear, including frays, tangles, splits and cracks. And don’t be shy about asking the operator when the equipment was put into service and how often he replaces it. Safety-conscious operators will keep usage and maintenance logs.   



Mitigate: Parasailing in high winds and strong gusts increases the likelihood that the tow rope will snap. “As wind speed doubles, the load on the towline may quadruple,” according to a U.S. Coast Guard Marine Safety Alert. The ASTM Standard Practices for Parasailing prohibit parasailing at wind speeds higher than 20 miles per hour. Some vessel captains set the limit at 15 miles per hour. Check the wind speed before you strap into your harness, and opt to fly another day if the winds are too strong. “If it’s too windy to set up a beach umbrella, then that’s not the day to be the pivot-point in a tug of war with a parachute and a powerboat,” advises boating safety expert Mario Vittone



Mitigate: Choose a company that launches and recovers parasailors from a seated position on a built-in platform on the boat deck, using a motorized winch to let out and draw in the rope, as opposed to operating from the beach. The latter method is far less controlled, and has resulted in a host of back, neck, shoulder and ankle injuries.  


Mitigate: Scan the environment in which you will be parasailing, and use your common sense. If the area is teeming with boats and myriad watersports activities or you will be flying in close proximity to buildings, bridges, power lines, trees, piers or other structures, then opt out. You should also avoid parasailing at an unsafe altitude, which, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, is higher than 500 feet above the water. If you fly higher than this, you lose the ability to communicate with boat operators and run the risk of colliding with banner-towing planes and other small aircraft. 

12 Questions to Ask Your Captain

“While aloft, passengers have no control mechanisms by which to steer, deflate, or otherwise control the direction or lift of the canopy. Passengers are entirely dependent on the vessel crew for all aspects of flight, including altitude and speed.”

National Transportation and Safety Bureau Special Investigation Report on Parasailing Safety


Other than a smattering of U.S. Coast Guard regulations regarding small vessels and a Federal Aviation Administration limit on parasail altitude, there are currently no federal rules governing parasailing operations, training or equipment inspection and maintenance. And only three states have passed legislation regulating the parasailing industry. It’s up to you to vet your parasailing operator. Here is a list of questions to ask your captain before you get on board:   

1. Are you licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard?

2. Do you carry liability insurance?

3. Do you conduct a safety briefing prior to launch?  

4. Are you and your crew trained in administering first aid and CPR?

5. How many years have you been operating a parasailing company?

6. How many flights have you logged?

7. Do you conduct daily equipment inspections?

8. Do you maintain usage and inspection logs?

9. Do you fly above 500 feet?

10. At what wind speed do you cease operations?

11. Are you an active member of the Water Sports Industry Association?

12. Do you follow the ASTM Standard Practices for Parasailing?


Parasailing: Vital Statistics

500           Maximum vertical feet a parasail can fly above the water (FAA)

500           Minimum vertical feet a parasail can be from the base of any cloud (FAA)

20             Miles-per-hour wind speed limit for parasail operations (ASTM, NASBLA)

7               Minimum miles a parasail can be from a lightning storm (NASBLA)

5               Minimum miles a parasail can be from an airport (FAA)

4,800        Minimum rated tensile strength in pounds required of parasail tow rope (NASBLA)

12             Inches that must be trimmed off the bitter end of a tow rope every 30 days, 100         

                 flights, or according to manufacturer’s instructions, whichever comes first (NASBLA)


355          Number of commercial parasailing vessels in the United States in 2016 (USCG)

134          Number of those vessels inspected by the USCG (USCG)

FAA—Federal Aviation Administration

NASBLA—National Association of State Boating Law Administrators

ASTM—American Society for Testing and Materials

USCG—United States Coast Guard

Associations & Websites

A nonprofit organization that represents the recreational boating authorities of all 50 states and U.S. territories, NASBLA works to develop public policy to strengthen the ability of the states and U.S. territories to reduce death, injury, and property damage associated with recreational boating.

National agency responsible for regulating airports, aircraft and air traffic; this includes a few aspects of parasailing activity, such as mandatory distance of parasails from airports and right-of-way rules of banner-flying planes over parasailing boats.

A trade association for towed water sport activities, WSIA produces and distributes safety and educational materials for its members, including a parasailing safety video for its membership.

U.S. military branch responsible for maritime safety, security and stewardship, including the licensing of some parasailing tow boat operators.

Source for parasailing information