Cedar, my wife, and I are on the second half of our three-week Costa Rican vacation. More specifically, we are staying at a beach hotel on the country’s Pacific Coast. Our first day there we notice people hanging by a harness from a large parachute about 400 feet straight up while a speedboat is pulling them around the bay at a good clip. We would never do anything so risky, we agree. On day two, there are now three sets of parasailers up at the same time from two or three different concessions in our bay. Most contain two hanging black specks, AKA people. After about 15 minutes each, they all drop into the Pacific some 50 yards from shore. A jet-ski boat awaits to help these individuals from the water and take them back. We watch the former customers walk proudly up the beach to have their harnesses and life vests removed. They seem none the worse for their adventure...
Now it’s day three. Curious, we go up to the manager of the parasailing concession closest to our hotel. A serious-looking middle-aged man with glasses, Miguel is clearly in charge of the operation. He greets us in English. “You are not the first viejitos [seniors] to inquire about parasailing,” he tells us. “Would you like to try?” “Well, is it really safe?” one of us queries. “I have been doing this in different parts of the world for 20 years. This bay has the best, most consistent winds of all the places I’ve been. The worst that can happen is the motorboat breaks down and stops. Then you come gently down to the sea. “!No problema!” “Okay, we’ll think about it.” On day 4 we tell Miguel, “We’ll come back tomorrow at 10 in the morning and try.”
That night we had a little problem falling asleep. Are we nuts? Are we really going to do this? I check in with my spiritual control tower. “Just go for it!” I get back. “You’ll be totally safe.” Mark, a fellow American guest at our hotel, has volunteered to video our flight. “Great!” We reply. Next morning it’s 9:30. We start up the beach to find Mark already there. We wait around 30 minutes till our chute with its passengers returns. Meantime, we’re briefed and harnessed up. Now we’re standing on the beach side by side, a big guy to our right and another to our left. They attach the cable from the boat and hook us up with the chute. Two other guys are holding the latter up behind us so that it can catch the air. We’re maybe 15 feet from the wet sand as we face the ocean. One of our guys says, “You walk, we lift you, then you go up.” And that’s what happens, except I lift my legs a tad too soon and land on the sand before being slingshot up a hundred feet. This unfortunate move on my part pushes the bottom of the harness, which should be under my thighs, back to behind my butt. Oh, the pain! Cedar and I have been doing 4-7-8 breathing to keep calm. Now we’re up 400-500 feet. She’s doing fine. The pain keeps me from worrying about anything else. I try to wriggle the harness into the correct position. All I manage to do is fishtail from right to left to right. Okay, I figure: Better ten more minutes of leg pain than possible death. I look down at the ocean, the diminutive boats, and the island we’re flying around. Cedar puts her arms out like a bird. We’re heading back. The speedboat slows down and we quickly enter the water. Actually, the scariest part of the whole deal turns out to be the jet-ski trip back to land. Now it’s our turn to walk proudly up the beach. It’s hard to believe, but we actually did it!