Parasailing in Sarasota County. Photo credit: iStockphoto.com

Parasailing in Sarasota County

Parasailing is one of the best ways to see the waters of Sarasota County. Learn more about the sport and schedule your trip soon.

Connect with the sky in a calming, take-it-all-in kind of way with parasailing. It is a fairly passive activity that combines a little adventure with a whole lot of tranquility.

Also known as parakiting or parascending (and not to be confused with paragliding), parasailing involves a participant being towed behind a vehicle (typically a boat) while attached to a specially designed, parachute-like canopy called a parasail wing.

Once the harness is fastened, the boat begins quickly moving forward, which carries the parasail wing and rider into the air. Two or three riders can simultaneously parasail behind faster, more powerful boats. Because the parascender has little to no control over the speed or height involved, parasailing is thought of as less of a physical sport and more of a leisurely experience.

The first ascending-gliding parachute was developed in 1961 by innovator Pierre-Marcel Lemoigne, and in Sarasota-Manatee, parasailing has remained popular for decades. Various companies offer fresh-air outings, such as Siesta Key Watersports, which takes riders over the Gulf of Mexico from the idyllic starting point of Siesta Key Public Beach.

Up to three participants can parasail at the same time, spotting dolphins and manatees below and experiencing a bird’s-eye view of the Sarasota mainland, Lido Key, Longboat Key and the Intracoastal Waterway. Twelve people can go out on the boat during the excursion and take turns watching their friends ascend from the seated position on the back deck into the air as the boat pulls away. The company’s Kevlar towline is smoothly reeled out from a winch, so riders seeking a peaceful adventure will not feel any uncomfortable pulls or tugs as they float higher into the sky.

However, the daredevils in the group can opt for a “free fall” instead of a traditional parasailing session, in which the captain will slow the boat and let the rider float down with the parachute until it almost hits the water. Then, the captain will hit the throttle and the rider will come up again. Of course, the captains are all United States Coast Guard-certified and boast years of experience with stunts like this.

Similarly, at Parasail Siesta on Siesta Key, the instructors and captains are equally competent (having successfully supervised 80,000 flights) and the newest parasail boats and equipment are available. Other qualified companies include Bradenton Beach Parasailing, Venice Parasailing, Englewood Parasailing and Adventure Parasail in Venice.

This is one activity that does not require athletic skills, stamina or competitive streaks, as it is simply a gentle, soul-warming way to see Southwest Florida without sweating too much (except maybe from a little extra summer sun).

Local parasailing resources:

Siesta Key Watersports: 1536 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota, (941) 921-3030.

Parasail Siesta: 1250 Stickney Point Road, Sarasota, (941) 346-8200.

Bradenton Beach Parasailing: 4328 127th St. West, Cortez, (855) 908-3592.

Venice Parasailing: 1000 S. Casey Key Road, Nokomis, (941) 961-2041.

Englewood Parasailing: 1450 Beach Road, Englewood, (855) 359-2759.

Adventure Parasail: 1968 Tarpon Center Dr., Venice, (941) 486-1300.