Things to Do on Catalina Island

Parasail: Catalina Island Parasailing

The Most Thrilling Way to Enjoy a Bird's-Eye View of the Island

If you spend any time at all on Santa Catalina Island, soaking up all the natural and manmade beauty of Avalon and the surrounding land and sea, and you can't help but begin to wonder to yourself: How amazing must all this look to the birds I see flying overhead?

There's an easy way to get an answer: Go parasailing.

Before you get carried away with anxiety over the thought of suddenly being hoisted aloft dangling beneath a parachute towed by a fast boat, calm down and consider the history—and safety—of this relatively modern sport. The "parasail" and the activity known as "parasailing" (both of which are sometimes spelled with the hyphen: "para-sail" and "para-sailing") were first developed in 1961, when a French parachuting enthusiast named Pierre Lemoigne adapted a parachute into a curved apparatus that would lift someone aloft when towed by a car; this came to be known as "parascending," and was used primarily to train people to parachute without the need for bringing them aloft in airplanes. Soon, Lemoigne's invention was adapted to being towed behind boats, and the Connecticut-based Pioneer Parachute Company began to manufacture the new kind of parachutes under the trademarked name "Parasail."

For those concerned with safety, the most important point in the sport's evolution came in 1971, when Miami-based inventor Mark McCulloh developed a fast boat with a self-contained winch and special harness that made it possible—indeed, easy—for para-sailors, even beginners, to lift off from and land back on the boat. That's exactly the type of equipment used on Catalina Island for the sensational parasailing adventures.

Just make a reservation at the company's ticket booth, which is located at the end of the green pier under the "Fish and Chips" sign. Then, show up at the company's parasailing boats, to which you'll be directed. You'll head out into the waters beyond the harbor, and a trained professional will strap you securely into the harness and give you all the simple instructions you'll need.

Then off you go, gently lofted high into the air while securely tethered to the boat's winch. During your 7-to-10-minute parasail adventure, you'll be amazed by so many things: by the bird's-eye views, of course, stretching from Avalon to Long Beach and Palos Verdes, as well as to the island's interior, and the fresh, cool breezes; but also by how quiet it all seems up in the air, and by how absolutely peaceful you feel. Finally, you'll be gently reeled back into the boat, landing safely and easily back where your flight began.

It certainly qualifies as a once-in-a-lifetime experience—except, of course, for the fact that you'll yearn to do it again!

Launching Your Parasailing Adventure
Island Water Charters' ticket booth is located at the end of the green Pleasure Pier, under the "Fish and Chips" sign. They operate the parasailing adventures daily in the summer. In the winter, hours are more limited. Flights are available weekends and cruise ship days and anytime more than two people would like to ride. Parasailing adventures are, of course, only available when weather and ocean conditions allow. For reservations, call (310) 510-9280.

Parasailing fees are just $65 per person, with a $20 fee for people who just want to come along on the boat for the ride. You'll be directed from the booth to your boat, which holds up to 12 passengers. Boats leave about every hour on the hour.

Wear comfortably, loose, casual clothing, and sunscreen, as you would for a day at the beach.

Time to Allow: One hour.
Reservations are recommended.
Prices and availability are subject to change.