Lift Off

Our writer finds that parasailing is far more peaceful than she ever imagined.

I always thought parasailing was one of those adrenaline-inducing extreme sports for thrill-seekers. In reality, it feels just the opposite.

“It’s so peaceful,” says Phillip Metcalf, who has parasailed more than 50 times in the six years he has worked for North Coast Parasail in Sandusky, Ohio. “I wish I could take a hammock up there.”

 From May to September, weather permitting, North Coast Parasail offers atmospheric adventures from its base at Cedar Point Beach, behind the world-famous theme park with the same name. I couldn’t think of a better place to try the activity for the first time, especially since the aerial views over Lake Erie and Cedar Point are second to none.

The best part? Parasailing requires no effort whatsoever on the part of the participant. The website states, “if you can sit, you can parasail. There are no special skills or strength needed.” That means anyone from age 6 to 100 can do it, and you don’t have to get your feet wet (unless you want what’s called a “touch-‘n’-go”). “We had an 85-year-old lady do it,” says my flight assistant, Mike Oney, while adjusting the harness that will hold me during the flight. “She loved it.”

But now it’s my turn. One minute my feet are firmly planted on the boat, which has begun to accelerate to approximately 30 miles per hour. Just like that, I am gently lifted into the air — slowly climbing toward the stratosphere as if I were a kite. As I drift higher and higher away from the boat, the sound of the engine begins to dull. When I reach cruising altitude, there is 900 feet of rope between me and the boat and I can almost imagine what it’s like to be an astronaut looking down at earth.

 Interestingly enough, it was NASA that made my day possible in the first place — well, sort of. The first towable parachute was invented by French engineer Pierre-Marcel Lemoigne in 1961. Two years later, NASA used the modified chute for survival training before the launch of Gemini, the second human spaceflight project. In an article published in an issue of the NASA Roundup dated Sept. 18, 1963, astronaut James A. Lovell Jr. is pictured dangling 600 feet in the air while being pulled along by a land-based truck. The goal was to simulate a low-altitude landing should the mission be aborted after lift-off.  

It wasn’t long before parasailing was adopted by the tourism industry and ever since, it’s been a favorite vacation activity for water lovers everywhere, including on Ohio’s north coast playground.

High up above it now, I can see the rides of Cedar Point twirling, twisting and zooming and hear the distant screams of their excited riders. Meanwhile, I’m enjoying the fleeting moment of serenity in the sky, until a gentle tug indicates I’m on my descent back to the earth’s surface.

North Coast Parasail is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. between Memorial and Labor Day weekends. Prices range from $70 for an eight-minute ride with 400 feet of towline to $130 for 15 minutes and 1,000 feet of line. Admission to Cedar Point is not required, but parking costs $15. 419-627-2279,

If You Go

Eat. Venture into downtown Sandusky to Zinc Brasserie (419-502-9462, for French-inspired food, including bouillabaisse and steak au poivre. For a more casual dining experience, also in Sandusky, dine on burgers, salads or tacos at the outdoor-seating-only Dockside Café (419-503-2296, overlooking the water and Cedar Point. The 32-ounce Freighter in the Bay rum punch special ($5) is available only when there is an actual freighter moving in the bay.

Stay. There are several options for overnight accommodations right on Cedar Point grounds and all provide guests with free parking, discount prices on Cedar Point tickets and access to the park an hour before the general public. The historic Hotel Breakers, built in 1905, has a prime location right on Cedar Point Beach and is undergoing a renovation that will be complete in 2015. Rooms start at $200.

Play. For 16 consecutive years, Cedar Point has reigned as the best amusement park in the world, according to an Amusement Today magazine poll. Ride the GateKeeper, the longest winged coaster in the world, or fulfill your need for speed on the Top Thrill Dragster, which reaches 120 mile per hour. In addition to the big thrills, the park has introduced two new family rides for the 2014 season: the Pipe Scream rocks passengers back and forth on a wavy track, while Lake Erie Eagles gives riders control over their flight experience while spinning 28 feet in the air. Sandusky, Ohio, 419-627-2350,