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Chute to Thrill: Conquering the Gulf from the Friendly Skies

Ever think that you knew in advance precisely what an experience would be like, only to actually go through it and find out you weren’t nearly as informed as you’d thought you’d been?

Never? Really?

OK, well… me neither. But this friend of mind sure has (we’ll call him Kyle Fitzgibbons for the sake of identification here) and he was nice enough to tell me all about it.

It’s a heck of a coincidence, but it seems ol’ Kyle happens to have a gig as an outdoor adventure writer in his own neck of the woods, too. His idea for this month’s death-defying blog endeavor was to hop aboard a boat, settle into a seat, buckle up safety belts and take to the skies as a first-time parasailer. And for convenience’s sake, he decided to set out from the ‘Tween Waters Inn to do so.

Greetings from the flight deck.
Greetings from the flight deck.

Because Kyle had both been on a boat and jumped out of an airplane, he was certain he already knew all there was to know. And right up until the moment the experience began, he might have been right.

From there, though, let’s face it… he didn’t have a clue.

(Truth told, Kyle’s kind of a know-it-all and we’re really not that close. But I digress.)

Anyway, his unexpected education began when he and his ratty Teva sandals waded a few feet into the Gulf waters to hop aboard the YOLO Watersports boat from which his airborne excursion would begin.

From there, class was most definitely in session.

Lesson No. 1. Rather than starting in the water and waiting for the boat to reach a speed enabling the parachute – and its passengers – to actually take flight, the process actually started from the rear of the craft with the parachute tethered to the boat by a line capable of handling 6,000 pounds of tension.

Lesson No. 2. Though I, errr… Kyle, expected the flight to be bone-rattling and turbulence-filled from start to finish, the aforementioned high-tension line – not to mention the smarts of the crew – gets the passenger cargo up to 800 feet for a tranquil 12-minute ride with nary an airsick bag in sight.

Lesson No. 3. While a novice might be alarmed by looking down to the water and seeing sharp-toothed critters within relatively close proximity of swimmers, the prevailing thoughts of the grizzled airborne set lie comfortably between “better them than me” and “if it ain’t flying, I’m not dying.”

Your scheduled departure gate.
Your scheduled departure gate.

Upon landing, the disembarking process is just as simple as the load-in. Dislodge the harness, stand up from your seat, grab hold of your carry-ons and head leisurely back toward the beach.

Though if there’d been a stopwatch on his wade back to shore … ol’ Kyle might be an Olympian.

NOTE: YOLO Watersports flights are $89 each for an individual, or $79 apiece for a maximum of three passengers. Minimum weight per flight is 150 pounds; Maximum weight is 450 pounds. A picture package of 50 to 80 high-definition photos is $39. YOLO, incidentally, is at 11534 Andy Rosse Lane on Captiva — a four-minute car ride, a six-minute bike ride or a 22-minute walk from the ‘Tween Waters Inn.

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