For an uplifting Cape Cod adventure, try parasailing!
This high-flying activity offers amazing views, a peaceful ride and a mood-altering experience
On a warm summer afternoon, a handful of fishermen cast lines from the breakwater in South Yarmouth where the Parker River flows into Nantucket Sound. The occasional cry of a seagull floats on the wind, and sailboats hazily dot the horizon. It’s a peaceful scene. From stage left, a misshapen balloon enters the frame, slowly ascending heavenward. No, it’s a kite. Wait, upon further examination, it appears to be a parachute . . . with a rider attached . . . and the colorful contraption seems to be tethered to the boat cruising across the water below.
Welcome to parasailing! “Parasailing offers an unparalleled experience,” says Sarah Kossmann, who owns Cape Cod Parasail & Jet Ski in South Yarmouth with her husband, Kurt. “It’s quiet, it’s peaceful, and you’re out in the open air. You get to experience flight in a way that humans don’t usually get to. There’s no other experience like it.”
The company is open from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day in South Yarmouth, offering parasailing rides and kayak rentals from the dock at Red Jacket Beach Resort, and banana boat rides and jet ski rentals from the beach at nearby Blue Water Resort.
Naturally, one of the key attractions to floating a good distance above sea level is the view if affords—of land, water and the horizon. “The view is amazing because it’s crystal clear,” Kossmann says. “There’s no glass or anything else to look through. On clear days, you can see all the way to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket.” From above, Kossmann says guests have often spotted fish and some large sea turtles in the water, but—likely due to the location’s warm and shallow water—no sharks or whales.
But is parasailing, gulp, scary? Kossmann says there are some guests who are hesitant or anxious at first, but those feelings typically float away on the clouds. “Once they realize how calm it is, they can sit back, relax and enjoy the flight,” she says. “I can’t say I’ve ever seen anyone go up who wasn’t smiling when they came down.”
Parasailing comes with various built-in safety precautions, and every rider is fitted into a harness and safety vest before they “leave” the boat. Also, the ride is generally smooth—nothing at all like an amusement park ride. “You don’t need to have a white knuckle experience,” Kossmann says. “You can let go and pretend to fly. To be out in the open air like that, with a view, is pretty spectacular.”
Here’s a quick primer on how parasailing works. Following a quick ride from the dock to open water, the crew helps a customer (or two) into a harness and links the harness to the parachute. As the boat picks up speed, wind fills the chute, and “liftoff” commences. The crew starts to let out the line connecting boat to parasail, and the chute climbs slowly as the boat moves forward. The line is 1,000 feet long, but due to forces like gravity and the wind the parasail doesn’t soar straight up. Typically, it reaches an altitude of 300 to 400 feet at a good distance behind the boat. Aloft, the chute floats through the air at about 10 miles per hour through a combination of the strength of the wind in its sails and the power of the boat, which is pulling it in the opposite direction.
The company employs about 20 staff during the summer and several different parachutes in a given day, each with its own size, color and design. The differences are not just for style and creativity, though. As the wind changes throughout the day, the crew unfurls different sized parachutes. If the wind dies down, more sail—and a larger chute is needed (for example, the 40-foot orange one with the skull and crossbones); if the wind is strong, less sail is needed, so the crew hooks up the 33-foot neon green chute with the smiley face, and the extra air vents that help keep it steady. “Windy day or no windy day, you’re going to be soaring,” Kossmann says. “The parachutes are colorful and exciting, and it adds to the whole experience.”
Each ride lasts 8 to 10 minutes, and the time from dock to dock is usually 35 to 45 minutes. The company works with a few thousand customers every summer, and Kossmann says another positive part of parasailing is pretty much anyone can do it. “Grandparents bring their grandkids,” she says, “and they both love it. It’s exciting, and the ride is smooth.” Many seniors have parasailed, Kossmann says, and she has even fitted 2-year-old toddlers into tiny harnesses.
Individuals with disabilities and various physical limitations can also parasail, she says, adding that the company has worked with blind customers as well as individuals who use wheelchairs or must be lifted into the boat. “This is something that includes everyone,” Kossmann says. “When people call us and ask us if they can fly, the answer is always yes.”
For example, a customer named Charlie paid a visit to the company to celebrate his 100th birthday. “He was not nervous at all,” Kossmann recalls, but the man’s daughter, who was 72, was. “The family was there, and they took a bunch of photos. That was pretty fun.” Here’s another uplifting story: some couples have got engaged while soaring above Nantucket Sound. “You can tell when the question has been asked by the excited movements,” Kossmann says. “It’s a very unique way to propose.”
Cape Cod Parasail & Jet Ski has operated out of the same location every summer since 2000. Kossmann says it’s a good spot because the water is calm, and warm in comparison to Cape Cod Bay. Why would this last detail matter, one might ask? Well, if customers are amenable, the captain is happy to “dip” them in the ocean toward the end of their ride. Those who wear glasses are advised to wear them so they can enjoy the breathtaking views from above, but keep them safe and sound on a strap.
Rent jet skis—or ride the banana boat!
Blue Water Resort is just a short beach walk east of Red Jacket Beach Resort. There, customers can rent Yamaha WaveRunners, which hold multiple riders—one of whom must be at least 18. When customers are on the water, staff members patrol the area to offer suggestions and be of assistance. “It’s a fun, safe way for families to rent jet skis,” Kossmann says.
Another option for recreating on the water is a ride on the banana boat, an inflatable tube that is shaped like a banana and pulled by a boat. Up to six people can ride at once and there are no age restrictions. “This is a lot of fun,” Kossmann says. “People literally line up all day to ride the banana boat. The point is to go fast, bump along the water, and, sometimes, fall off.”
Cape Cod Parasail & Jet Ski can be found at Red Jacket Beach Resort, 1 South Shore Drive, and at Blue Water Beach Resort, 291 South Shore Drive—both in South Yarmouth. From Memorial Day weekend to late June, the company is open on weekends only, and then from late June through Labor Day, daily, from 9:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Reservations are required for all of these activities. For more information, call 508-398-7245, or visit capecodparasailjetski.com.
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