July 17, 2012

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Flying high over Missouri’s Table Rock Lake

By Kelly Moffitt

What started out as a trip fraught with lightening-laden terror ended with a sunny sail through light breezes on Table Rock Lake—that’s not just hyperbolizing, it’s the truth. When my boyfriend and I started out on an adventure to go parasailing over what I consider to be Missouri’s most breathtaking cerulean waters, we were waylaid by the first thunderstorm in the Branson area in weeks.

This wasn’t just any thunderstorm, mind you, but a thunderstorm that cropped up unannounced 10 minutes before out scheduled 2 p.m. ride in the face of otherwise crystal clear skies. Typical.

Captain Sam Sandt, who brought parasailing to Table Rock over 25 years ago at State Park Marina, was insistent—no gliding until an hour had gone by without lightening. As one would expect at $79.99 per 10-minute ride, we were offered the chance to reschedule. And we did, three more times, finally settling on a ride the next day at noon. The staff could not have been kinder about it, remembering us when we returned the next day rain-soaked from setting up our tent in the rain the night before.

We arrived 15 minutes ahead of time to make sure we still had a ride. With cloudless blue skies and a willing captain and first mate, we did. Accompanied by four other passengers (the custom parasailing boat named “Patty Anne” takes six at a time for a total of one hour), we boarded Captain Sam’s ship and heard the rundown on the rules, of which there aren’t too many and most are pretty obvious. Like keeping your hands away from the winch that reels you out into the air. Or keeping your hands away from the “wedgie board” that can pinch your butt if you hold onto it during landing.

As we busted out of the marina and the no-wake zone, we entered the soft waters of the lake near Table Rock Dam, and the first contenders were called up to get on their harnesses—impressive contraptions that don’t really make sense until they keep you upright while in air. My stomach started to jump at this point, something I wasn’t expecting as a veteran of hot-air ballooning and white-water rafting. Of course, my boyfriend and I were left for last.

While you can go up solo, if you are under a certain weight requirement you are required to go with a partner, which was just fine with me because it was all the better to have someone to scream with on the way up. In fact, as long as your combined weight is under 500 pounds, you can go up in a group of three. Captain Sam and his first mate got us suited up in our harnesses and set us on the back end of the boat—an American flag-emblazoned seat made specifically for taking off and landing without touching the water.

After seeing four other fliers, I knew the process was totally safe but that didn’t stop me from squealing as I felt the engine rev and my backside slide backwards toward the engine’s wake. One second and a dip of my toes into the water later, we were airborne and spellbound.

Table Rock Lake is a beautiful sight from above—green, rolling hills surrounding waters mermaids wish they could live in. It’s paradise. The ride was smooth, making looking at your toes dangling over the dark azure lake a pleasure instead of a fear. My harness hardly felt like it was there yet sturdy at the same time and it felt like my childhood dream of soaring coming true.


July 17, 2012

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