04/30: Go parasailing

Already when I had just bought and paid my last-minute holiday to Cyprus I thought that this holiday would be the perfect opportunity for me to do something I’ve thought about and watched with interest when other people do it but for which I’ve never had enough courage to try it myself. I wanted to go parasailing. In other words, I wanted to be harnessed to a parachute and be hoisted up high in the air over the Mediterranean.

My original plan was that I would do this on my own, but a happy coincidence changed my mind. As it happened, the person I went on this holiday with had also thought about parasailing and, moreover, had had the brilliant idea that we should do it together, as a tandem. Hell yes, the more the merrier! As we were both ready, willing and able to go for it, the only remaining choices to be made were when and where.

Eventually, as it often happens, the decision was made really easy for us. We were staying in Ayia Napa and on its several beaches we would have had enough water sports providers to hoist us up in the air once every day, had we had such aspirations. However, one day we took a bus to another close-by beach resort, Protaras, roughly half an hour busride away, and that’s where it clicked for us.

The most known beach of the Protaras area is Fig Tree Bay, in fact quite a smallish bay with white sands and turquoise waters. Well, what else can you expect really – that’s after all what we were, and I presume anyone going for a beach holiday in the Med is, looking for. We were having lunch at a (what I must say was a really nice) beach restaurant and mentioned in passing that we were planning to try parasailing. Voilà: turned out that the restaurant had a partnership with one of the water sports providers on that beach, and we received a recommendation and a card that would give us a discount on the price.

It was too late to go parasailing on that day, so we returned the next day to discover what were described for us as “perfect conditions” for parasailing: not too much or too little wind but just right, and – of course – enough sunshine and clear blue skies to make your eyes water. All that was left for us to do was walk up to the water sports company that was recommended for us and tell the guys what we had in mind. The game was on!

Parasailing over the Med

04/30: Go parasailing. Now bring me the horizon!

We were each given a life vest, and on top of it we had to wear a kind of a harness from which we would be hanging in the parasail. (Yaiks!) I might have started sweating slightly from pure excitement, had I not been sweating in my swimwear already because of the (oh so lovely) hot direct sunshine and the life vest, which was thick and highly non-breathable. Looking silly and walking even sillier, we were lead down the gangplank plastic pontoon dock to the boat that would take us out to the sea.

Normally the craft that’s specially designed for the purpose of parasailing – with a special platform in the rear for take-off and landing – would wait for the madcaps happy holidaymakers who are eager to be up in the air. However, when we were ready to set sail, so to speak, the boat was already out on the sea, giving a group of tourists their share of sun and fun. Were we made to wait for our turn on the beach?

No: we were taken on a speedboat to meet the parasailing craft out on the water.

In other words, this meant that after awkwardly walking on the rocking dock (not rocking like music, as you surely understand, but rocking because of the waves and our steps) to the boat – awkwardly because the harness indeed is not meant for walking in it but rather sitting in it, and at least I swaggered waddled along the wobbly dock in what felt like a very silly manner – we had to awkwardly climb onto the boat and we would have to awkwardly climb out of it and into another out on the sea, with the harness restricting our movements.

Well, to be honest, I forgot about all the awkwardness and the upcoming out-of-one-and-onto-another-boat maneuvers the moment when the speedboat left the dock. Or, to be completely prceise, I forgot about everything else the moment when the guy steering the boat looked over his shoulder smiling at us, yelled YIIIIIHAW, turned a handle, and suddenly we were speeding ahead at (what at least felt like) full throttle. If I had to describe the feeling on that precise moment, it was roughly the same as on this video: I’m on a boat, everybody look at me cause I’m sailing on a boat!

We had to spend some time simply riding around on the speedboat a bit because the previous parasailers still were high up in the sky. So instead of “just” one boatride, we got two for the price of one. What a shame! Wind in the hair, gleam of the sun on the water in the eyes, some seawater slightly spraying on the face, white lace-like foam on the waves, waving at The Black Pearl passing by, sporting its black skull-and-bones pirate flag…

I’m not making this last bit up, you know: there really is a ship sailing from Tortuga Ayia Napa that is called and looks (somewhat) like The Black Pearl from The Pirates of the Caribbean films (in case you did not know – and if you didn’t, shame on you!). I wonder if this touristic attraction is also crewed by the damned, and captained by a man so evil that Hell itself spat him back out... (It might be crowded by the tanned, instead.) I did not see Captain Jack Sparrow at the helm, but on the other hand I did have something else on my mind at that moment, too…  

…because it was time for some more awkwardness: the parasailing craft was finally ready to receive us on board. The two boats were brought side by side, the guys steering the boats (should I call them captains?) held them on the sides so that we could clamber out of ours and the group of four tourists in their turn clambered into it. One of them greeted us with something along the lines “enjoy, you’ll have the time of your life”, the speedboat guy gave us a smile and a thumbs-up and told us to have fun before he steered his boat away.

And there we were: sitting, as told, on the platform in the rear of the boat, being connected by the guy (captain?) from the hooks of our harnesses to the hooks on a bar on the parasail, allowing us two to sit there side by side. The Guy (I shall call him that, from now on, since I have no idea of his name and I think captain isn’t the correct term here) adjusted the harnesses, told us to keep our legs straight ahead while waiting for the parasail to lift us up and then just sit relaxed, keep hold of the straps (but not in a death grip, as he advised my co-parasailer…) – and enjoy the ride. He gave a big smile, turned to adjust the steering – and suddenly we were up in the air, going higher and higher.

What a feeling!

On clambering onto the boat, I had given The Guy my camera, and he started shooting pics, telling us to wave at him and at the camera. Based on the photos it seems that we did, but I can’t really remember doing that. My co-parasailer was screaming, I was laughing and whooping, I could see The Guy laughing, and all the time we were being hoisted upwards. I found out later, upon receiving my Certificate (!), that we had indeed parasailed in the height of 500ft (the equivalent of 152.4m, as an online unit converter kindly informs me).

And here’s where words start to fail me – they really can’t do justice to the experience. Even if I could show you a video of what I saw from up there, it would still be lacking all the emotions and sensory feelings going through my brain and my body. The crystal-clear, alternatively light and dark and turquoise blue sea far beneath our feet, the coastline spreading from one direction to another (I believe we were able see far into the Turkish side and to the town of Famagusta, although I wouldn’t be able to say where the border ran), and as far as the eye could see, the great expanse of the Mediterranean waters.

I remember saying (or yelling, perhaps) over and over again something along the lines of  “This is so brilliant, I can’t believe it, just look at the amazing view, this is so fantastic“. My smile was probably as broad as possible from ear to ear, at least based on the fact that my lips were so dry in the end that I could barely manage to force them over my teeth! Not to mention that the muscles in my face felt cramped from all the extreme smiling.

After some time I also realised that I really could just sit back in the harness and relax, sitting on top of nothing with my feet dangling in the air, and just concentrate on admiring the view. The boat, somewhere down there, went first this way and that way, making the tow rope snap sharply whenever there was a sudden turn, which gave me a startle when it happened the first time. Other than that, it was smooth sailing all the way for the duration – 15 minutes maybe? – of the flight (if that’s a correct term).

There was just one more thing that I knew would happen in the end: The Guy started slowly winching us down (no, no, no, not yet!), again waving at us, mimicking to us to wave at the camera. I think we both showed the V for Victory sign at this point (and my co-parasailer had also stopped her loudish exclamations of fear excitement). When we were low enough The Guy reduced the speed of the boat, and we waited, waited, waited and – splash – our feet hit the water.

The dip sent water spraying to the waist, even though we went in only perhaps knee-deep, but sitting in that harness-swing-thingy it’s to be expected that your butt gets wet at this point (if not earlier, due to fright, if you know what I mean…). Then there was one final lifting up a bit higher and then a slow descent to land softly (which was surprising, I had expected a hard bump!) on the rear platform of the boat.

The Guy greeted us with a big smile, I greeted him with ευχαριστώ – as you might expect, that’s thank you in Greek. Since I wouldn’t be able to read it in Greek letters either (yet…!), here’s the transcribed version: efcharistó. Since you must be dying to know what he replied to such smooth usage of the Greek language, here it is: παρακαλο (parakaló), the meaning of which I’m sure you’re able to figure out.

We were disconnected from the parasail, clambered down a few steps from the platform and took a seat on the benches on the bow. The Guy gave me back my camera before starting to winch the parachute down and finally, when wind left it, somehow he managed to wrap it up. When he was done with that maneuver, he turned the boat around and we headed back towards the shore. Wind in the hair, gleam of the water, and so on… and still a huge smile on my face that was hurting from smiling too (in this context there can be no such thing as too much smiling!) so broadly.

Final moments of speeding over the waves (and I mean speeding, the boat came really fast towards the pontoon dock…) and then it was again time for some more awkward clambering, this time out of the boat and onto the pontoons. Luckily, this time we had two men helping us, as the driver of the speedboat greeted us on the dock, first tying the parasailing craft onto it and then giving us a hand to help us climb out, while The Guy assisted us from the boat. I thanked The Guy once more and followed the speedboat guy with a sure and steady gait waddled, with the harness somewhere around my thighs, after the speedboat driver on the wobbly dock to the shore.

Back on dry land, I gladly stepped out of the harness, removed the still highly non-breathable life vest and handed them back to the owner, saying (yet again) many thanks for a truly great experience. In return we were given fancy Certificates to boast our 500ft parasailing experience with. On briefly checking my camera I discovered that it contained a bunch of really good shots of our tandem flight. All in all: yay! There was one more set of thank-yous and smiles all around when we said goodbye.

We first headed for a quick dip in the sea and then for a quick drink in the beach restaurant. Well, we did have lunch as well, but what I remember the best, in addition to watching others parasail out on the sea while eating my Greek salad, is that the cold Ouzo, served with ice, was the best drink I had had in a long time.

Ps. Should anyone reading this have a hankering for water sports and be planning to head for Cyprus, I can warmly recommend FTB Watersports – nice guys, good service, and most of all, great fun.

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