Catching air on O'ahu
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By Don McKinnon
Special to The Advertiser
It was an event that lasted less than 10 minutes, but one that would become a lifetime memory.
For the uninitiated, parasailing involves a person, or persons, who are strapped into a harness that is attached to a parachute. The parachute is then towed behind a motor boat. The parachute catches air and voila, the participant is airborne. Participants take off and land from a platform on the boat.
Sometimes seeing others propelled skyward is enough to sway the most reluctant riders.
Cheryl Scioletti and Colleen Alvarado, both of Rhode Island, rode out with their husbands, but weren't interested in "going up." Alvarado admitted she had a fear of heights.
However, both changed their minds and were happy they did.
"The ride was relaxing, a tranquil, peaceful experience," Alvarado said. "While I'm not crazy about heights, this was a wonderful experience."
Said Scioletti: "It was like swinging on a swing. The view was incredible, and I've never seen such blue water."
Mark Neumann, owner and operator of O'ahu's Hawaiian Parasail Inc., said he gets between 1,000-1,400 customers a month.
Prior to the Sept. 11 attacks, Neumann said 90 percent of his customers came from Japan. Since then, 70 percent of the business has come from the Mainland.
"Local folks make up about five percent (20-30 people) of the 30 percent figure. Locals usually ride on weekends and during school vacations," Neumann said.
At $40 per person, Neumann's customers receive an 8- to 10-minute parasail ride. An observer riding in the tow boat can go along for half that amount.
In most cases, parasailers have a memorable outing.
"It was a neat experience, nice view and the closest thing to flying like a bird," said Mary Matthew of Phoenix.
Said her husband Tom: "It was like standing on a mountain top without the mountain beneath you."
Tom said he was going to purchase a parachute so he could parasail on Arizona lakes. But when he was ready to buy one, he discovered it was illegal to parasail on Arizona lakes.
Another recent rider, Joab Ashton, a 20-year-old from Santa Rosa, Calif., said it was one of the highlights of his vacation.
Siblings Joe Ferlito, 16, and Jennifer Ferlito, 14, of Sterling Heights, Mich., were equally impressed.
"It helped to make this a great vacation," Jennifer said.
Hawai'i Sports Inc., which operates mainly in Hawai'i Kai's Maunalua Bay, offers parasailing, along with a variety of water sport activities.
Ross O'Carroll, whose father Cormac O'Carroll owns the wakeboard and water ski center in Hawai'i Kai, says of the 150-200 people that parasail each month, 80 percent come from Japan.
Don McKinnon is a retired journalist and Army personnel officer.