The ineffable joy of soaring through the sky
I’ll be honest: I wasn’t expecting much out of parasailing. I’d done it once prior, in the Dominican Republic as an early twentysomething, and I remember it as enjoyable, albeit notably anticlimactic. But because I’m in the ‘si a todo’ vacation frame of mind, I’m like, sure, why not? Let’s give this thing another shot.
The guys helping us are so delightful at first I’m thinking I’d be happy to stay ashore and spend the day chatting with them. Though they probably wouldn’t admit as much, they correctly read me from jump street, an impressive byproduct of working with strangers all day, every day. Enrique’s dry sense of humor assuages any last-minute nerves that have cropped up, and Phillip’s perfect surfer bro accent – I later learn he spent his junior high years in Southern California – is so familiar I almost feel like I’m at home. We’re fast friends, and I know I’m in good hands. I fully submit to the experience. Take me away.
And, boy, do they ever. The ascent is seamless and so relaxing it’s hard to comprehend how high I get so fast. I’m above the ocean, Ian and the guys no more than dots on the beach, with a bird’s-eye view of Mazatlán’s sprawling shoreline. I am higher than the tops of the tallest buildings, and somehow still climbing. I exclaim every few seconds, to no one but myself, and then laugh at the fact that I can’t seem to stop. I’m alone, quite literally soaring. I am gobsmacked.
There’s something about seeing a place in its entirety that brings it into focus. In LA, I recommend the Griffith Observatory – that sits on the south-facing slope of Mount Hollywood – to give visitors a real sense of how the city’s myriad neighborhoods map together. In Mazatlán, the move is to strap yourself into a harness and sail through the sky. Taking in the miles of beachfront and boardwalk, the bend of the ocean and Centro Histórico beyond Zona Dorada’s flash, I’m immediately armed with a deeper understanding of this town: where it was, how it developed, and where it’s heading.
But even with those views, I find myself closing my eyes intermittently, to take in the quiet and the feeling of my body gliding through the warm air. It’s difficult to articulate how meditative it feels; here I am, hundreds of feet up and completely at peace. I forget in moments that at some point I’ll again have my feet on the ground.
When I do come down, Enrique and Phillip are now the ones exclaiming. “You are so small, and you went so, so high!” I’m beaming, feeling unjustly proud of this. I can see in their eyes what they see in mine: I’ve been bitten by the bug. They smile broadly and hug me tightly, as though I’m being indoctrinated into a secret club. It feels amazing.
As I swap places with Ian, I watch him examining my face, pleasantly bemused by how blissed out I am. He asks me how it was, but I only kiss him in response; he’s better finding out for himself. He’s still looking at me as he takes off, but in a moment he’s too high and my heart swells, knowing he’s about to experience what I have.
I generally live by the mantra that I’ll try most anything once. After this, I’m considering giving a whole slew of things a second shot.