From Exit Zero Magazine – August 3rd, 2007

Activity of the Week
Exit Zero’s Test Pilot/Guinea Pig Vicky Samselski Reports On All the Fun Things You Could Be Doing… One Adventure At A Time

#10 Parasailing With East Coast Parasail
East Coast Parasail is run by the insane. This thought occurs to me, rather belatedly, as we’re racing out to sea with the Oliver brothers hanging like monkeys of the back of the boat and the theme from Gilligan’s Island blasting. About 15 dunks and a three-vessel dance-off later, I’m pretty sure I’m crazy, too.

Below Schellinger Bridge, at Utsch’s Marina, two very small boats and one very tiny shed make up the East Coast empire. I called to set up a time, and Carly Necina answered the phone. Carly knows me from North Beach Gym, and is the sort of shy, retiring type East Coast apparently specializes in hiring. “Vickeeeee! Eeeeee!” she said, which I took to mean “Of course, we would love to have you join us for an enjoyable excursion – please hold while I get our calendar.” I’m told to come on Sunday, late afternoon. Well, I’m more or less told that: there’s a lot of shrieking and giggling and I think I may have agreed to a land war in Asia as well. Carly is an enthusiastic girl, and sometimes you find yourself agreeing to things you later question.

Sunday is gorgeous, but windy. We move our scheduled time up, and when I arrive there are already people waiting at picnic tables and heckling each other. This should be a sign of what’s to come, by the way. Captain Andy makes us all sit and listen to safety talk. Andy is excessively friendly and helpful – he even helps me apply sunscreen – but he makes mean faces and talks tough about not messing around; no backflips in the air, and no suing him for his house. I hadn’t been thinking of doing any of those things, but now I can’t seem to stop. “Is your house nice?” I ask. “Yup,” he says. “Don’t get any ideas. You’re going on JR’s boat, not mine. We’re taking two out at once out so you can get lots of pictures.”

He then proceeds to rally the troops, telling them all how they’ll be in a magazine and better fix their hair. Considering the humidity and wind has turned my own coif into a Ronald McDonald brillo pad, this hurts my pride just a little. It’s not the first time, and Andy has already moved onto hassling a Southern woman who objects to telling people her weight. Andy lays a thick coating of charm on her, he only time in recorded history a New Jerseyan beat a Southerner at their own game. Go Team.

Andy also warns us to keep an eye out on the water. “Don’t just zone out up there, look around – the view is incredible,” he says. Apparently you can see rip currents, dolphins, schools of fish, and the colors of the water changing with each wave. Andy seems especially impressed by rip tides. “You can really see how it works – all those warnings to just swim with them make sense once you’ve seen how they move. It’s a lot less scary, and kinda pretty.” The man is consumed by saftey! He mentions he has three kids.

Suddenly, the boats return from a previous parasailing excursion, and absolute madness ensues. Everyone on JR’s boat, the High Strung, takes off to beat Andy’s boat Chute Face to the water. This is a race?

Rounding past the lighthouse at the end of the Utsch’s bulkhead, a teenager named Taylor makes a flying leap into our boat. So much for safety. Tommy Oliver, mate on the High Strung, already knows everyone else, so he introduces himself to me and then we high five. Seriously. At his request. Rock tunes are blasting, the wind is whipping up the waves, which makes us slam up and down on the surface of the water as we overtake Andy’s boat. We win!

Tommy tries to open the smiley-face chute, and a series of mishaps occur. Andy beats us to the sky, at least. Captain JR and Tommy fish the chute out of the water, and JR shrugs and says “It’s my first day. Did you bring Dramamine?” Tommy asks if I’ve ever parasailed before. I have.

“Why didn’t you tell us we were doing it wrong, then?” demands Tommy. JR calls for the “first guinea pi… I mean, um, valued customers!” Two bikiini-clad teenage girls giggle their way to the back of the boat. The High Strung (Andy says it’s named after JR, who says it’s really named after Andy) isn’t all that big of a boat no matter who it’s named for, and flyers achieve height through a series of stops and starts and hairpin turns. The boat ride alone is worth the price of admission. The constant comedy routine of Tommy and his older brother Jim, their cousin Sarah and her husband Mark, helps pass the time, too.

“So you’re all related,” I ask, making a mental note of family reunions to crash. Carly and Suzy, the teenage bombshells, are friends of Taylor, who wants to be a mate but is apparently getting seasick. Just about everyone else is family.  “Mark married into the craziness,” says Sarah. They’re up next, and they don’t have bathing suits so they don’t get dunked. I can see JR and Tommy getting frustrated while minutes pass without anyone screaming. This does not bode well for my camera, I think.

Tommy’s older brother Jim gets to go up with me, which is good casting on East Coast’s part since the boy is pure eye candy. I give the super-expensive EZ camera to Sarah, and take my little one up with me. This trip is pure giddy fun, since JR purposefully swings us around, lets us swing in the breeze, and then pulls us back in after a few minutes. Is it too windy?

“Gimme your camera – we’re gonna dunk you!” shouts Tommy. Awesome! I had been suffering dunk envy. They’re none too gentle about getting us back into the air, which is making me laugh so hard I worry I might drown when dunked. The build-up is ridiculous, and just when I think “Oh, they’re only going to dunk us to our knees…” suddenly we’re underwater up to my neck. Cold! Aarggh! That water is f-f-freezing… do it again! They dunk us like 20 times. It never gets old. They hang us out literally to dry off in the wind, and Jim gets bored and starts shaking the rope himself. Then he deliberately disobeys all the safety rules and flips upside down. Oooh! That was him, not me! I’m good!

I can clearly see that no one cares. Um, they’re all family. Right. Well if he’s gonna… I flip upside down, too. I’m very susceptible to peer pressure, okay? This is the moment JR has apparently been waiting for. Now that we’re flagrantly disobeying the safety mandate, he dunks us so fast it’s like a dive. That’ll teach us! It turns out the water that was moderately cold on my feet, and downright shocking on my back, is icy on the top of my head. I’m shrieking louder than the teenagers. I bet no one saw that coming.

Andy had said if we misbehaved in any way, we’d be taken right down and our ride would stop. Just to let you all know: don’t get cute with them, they’re treacherous and not to be messed with.  JR is also quite creative: instead of making us stop, his solution is to drown us. A series of dunkings occurs, which is a bit like a giant whacking you down each time, only a lot more fun. Dunking is my new favorite thing ever. I’m now officially as giddy and as crazed as everyone else on this boat.

They pull us in again, and Tommy unhooks the harness that connects us to the chute. Jim the gentleman assists me back into the boat. JR guns the engine, and I slide about four feet on my butt. You just can’t see where the next one is coming from with these people.

Tommy begins to put the chute away for the ride back, which offers ample opportunity for Jim to “accidentally” fall off the boat, JR to start screaming lyrics to rock tunes, and Tommy to playfully push his brother off the boat about three more times. Then it’s time for poses: since I’m still taking pictures, the boys begin outdoing each other in both the beefcake and grotesque divisions. Tommy somehow wins both with a delightfully cheesecake pose on the front of the boat, flanked by women, smiling and blowing kisses at my camera.

“I’m pretty sure that’s disgusting,” says JR. “Don’t put that in the magazine – no one will ever call us again.”

The ride back is full of hijinks and heckling: another race, a dance competition down the length of the canal with the mate of the Chute Face – who has some killer moves, by the way. I’m still not sure how one can moon-walk on a boat that’s bouncing five feet into the air with every wave. Another boat, completely unrelated to any of this, is caught in the crossfire: the five inebriated fisherman on board gamely start dancing, too, in their own unique way. Perhaps they were secretly hoping for the chance all along, and cruise the canal just in case a dance breaks out…

There are rules about speed in the canal, which clearly annoys everyone who liked bouncing. Jim and JR amuse themselves with a pull-up competetion. Way too soon, we’re back at Utsch’s.

Sadness. Now I have to go do actual work, and that’s depressing. Only because I would have preferred staying on the boat, and being dunked about 1,000 more times. I pull my sodden self into the Mini, and suddenly Andy is half climbing in my window. “Didja have fun?” he says with a huge smile, and I admit that yes, I did enjoy my torturous afternoon with the entire East Coast family.

“Any time you want to come back, just call beforehand,” says Andy, and I wonder if they have a bat signal so they can all come back out with me. Then it occurs to me they’ll probably make me work next time. It’s like joining a cult! I can’t wait to go again.