Categories: Life & Arts
EDITOR’S NOTE: This story was done before a June 15 parasailing accident on Lake George that injured a 23-year-old man from New Windsor, New York. The man, who was parasailing with Pinky’s Parasail / JDQ Enterprises, was still hospitalized in serious condition at the time that this section went to press.
There are gorgeous views from many places on the shores of Lake George, but the most spectacular view might be from up in the air, while the wind is blowing your hair and your feet are dangling from the seat of parasail swing.
Parasailing came about in the mid-1970’s, and for the past couple of decades, it has been one of the three most popular activities on Lake George, next to a cruise on the Minnie Ha Ha and summiting Prospect Mountain on foot or by car.
Parasail Joe’s, one of two companies that operates parasailing trips on the lake, take thousands of people up each season in its four boats, with the busiest times being between July 4 and Labor Day. Parasailing Adventures Lake George sells out its three boats, which accommodate 10 to 12 customers, just about every day from when school lets out until Labor Day.
“It’s immensely popular,” said operations manager Michael Wistuk.
Parasailing does not require any special skills. “People don’t have to worry about doing anything,” said Parasail Joe’s manager, Brendan Willigan, who has been working in the parasail business over 20 years.
Parasail operators hand out life jackets and hook riders up to a special harness. Then the rider sits down in the parasail’s swing on the back of the boat. The parachute inflates aft of the boat, and slowly, the captain speeds up the boat, unwinding a winch so that the tow rope extends about 300 feet.
“The captains explain everything that they do, and they explain all the safety things, and they do everything,” said Shannon Eisenschmidt, who has made parasailing an annual activity with college friends. “They’re very reassuring.”
Willigan does get his share of nervous customers on board. “They don’t like water, they don’t like boats, they don’t like heights,” he said.
But the lure of being a few hundred feet up in the air wins out. “You can tell they want to go, but they’re terrified,” he said.
He encourages these people to watch a few times to see how it goes. “Then they go up, and when they come back down, they’re giving everybody hugs and saying it’s the best thing they’ve ever done,” he said.
His advice? Don’t overthink it.
People usually go up in pairs or groups of three and stay up in the air for 8 to 10 minutes. Going in pairs is more fun, Eisenschmidt said. “You have someone to hang out with and talk to up there,” she said.
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Eisenshmidt’s family has a house on Lake George, and they would always see people parasailing. “It was a bucket-list thing to do, and now it has become an every-summer thing that we do,” she said.
Repeating the trip doesn’t get old. “The view is always the same, but it’s always such a cool experience,” she said, whether it’s a cloudy or sunny day.
Weather does play a factor. Willigan does not take people up when it’s raining, because it is just not a pleasant experience. If it starts to rain while a boat is out, he will stop.
People can opt to get wet on rides by being “dipped,” or they can choose to stay completely dry. Willigan dips those who request it, from just their feet to a full dunk, just before the ride is over, so if they’re cold, they’ll be right back on the boat.
“Getting dipped is definitely a little more fun,” Eisenschmidt said.
The main concern for parasail operators is the wind. Willigan does not go up if the winds get more than 15 miles per hour.
People may have the option of taking their cell phones up with them at their own risk to take pictures, and boat operators may offer to take photos and videos with customers’ cell phones as well.
Riders need to be at least six years old. There’s no particular dress code; on a hot day, riders might go up in their swimsuits.
Rides cost anywhere from $60 to $89 depending on the time of day and any discounts that might be offered, and parasail operators recommend making a reservation during the busy season. The cost, though, seems worth it to those who go up.
“It’s very thrilling,” Eisenschmidt said. “Once you go and get up there, it’s so quiet, and it’s very calming and relaxing. The views are beautiful.”