Parasailing in Dubai

A novice's guide to altitude thrills over water


When choosing an outdoor activity, most options cover either water, air or land. Parasailing, in which you’re strapped into a harness and lifted into the air by a parachute attached to the back of a boat, brings together the two most unlikely companions from this trio. The result, I’m hoping, will offer the thrill of parachuting without the stomach-churning drop, and the fun of wakeboarding without the need to perfect any tricky techniques.

Rolling out of bed one Friday morning, I make my way to the small, quiet Sheraton Jumeirah Beach Hotel at the end of The Walk at JBR. It’s because of its peacefulness that the hotel has always had a special place in my heart – where there are fewer parents, you can bet there are fewer screaming children. And did I mention they’ve just done up the beach bar? Enough said.

After signing in at the recreation desk (unfortunately, you still have to pay for beach access if you want to use the hotel’s watersports activities), I make my way down to the beach activity hut, with a mildly acrophobic friend in tow. Of course, this wouldn’t be a typical afternoon in Dubai without encountering a suitable amount of confusion, shuttling back and forth and a few vacant expressions from the staff, but once we’ve finally established why we’re there, it’s a just a short wait for the wind to turn around (it needs to be coming in off the sea, rather than heading out from land, apparently) and our boat arrives to take us out on the waves.

Hopping aboard, we join a Lebanese father and daughter who also live in Dubai, and an American tourist. Both my companion and I have parasailed before, one of us in the US and the other in New Zealand, but as both of these were more than 10 years ago, we feel like first-timers all over again. To our disappointment, the staff won’t let us go up together (leaving us feeling a little misled) so when my turn comes to be clipped into the parachute, I’m edgier than I’d expected. A small lurch from the wind or the wire as I’m climbing sends adrenaline shooting through my body, and I hold on even tighter, though I’m careful to keep my eyes open in case I need to mastermind a way out of some kind of mechanical failure on the parachute’s part.

Luckily, before my imagination can run too far away with me, I notice the blissful quiet. For all the views of Dubai Marina, the Palm buildings and JBR’s traffic-filled roads, I cannot hear a thing – it’s a peace I’ve never experienced here before, not even in the desert at night. Chatting on the boat afterwards, a number of our group confess to talking to themselves during the ride – as far as my acrophobic friend is concerned, I’m pretty sure he was just trying to talk himself into opening his eyes. On the contrary, I’m informed.

So there you have it. If a man who can’t look over the railings at a mall can do it, parasailing really is for everyone.
Dhs250 for 30-minute round-trip, of which approximately 5-10 minutes is spent in the air per person. Beach access Sun-Thu Dhs100, Fri-Sat Dhs180. The Sheraton Beach Resort & Towers, JBR (04 315 3501).

Feel the wind in your sails

Alternative ways to combine wind and watersports in Dubai


Have a lesson, or simply hire a board if you already have the skills.
Hire 30 minutes Dhs120, 30-minute tuition Dhs75. Day access to the hotel’s facilities Dhs180 Sun-Thu, Dhs220 Fri-Sat. Jebel Ali Golf Resort and Spa (04 883 6000).

Sign up for group kitesurfing lessons for a better deal, or save your blushes and go it alone with this school.
Dhs350 individual private lesson, Dhs150 per student in a group of four. IKO Kite School (050 456 5951).

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