Toss him with a parachute?
June 9, 2013 9:38 PM   Subscribe

I am planning an event for a friend, with dozens of guests. We will be outside. My friend wants to be tossed up in the air with a parachute. Essentially something like the traditional Inuit blanket toss. Is such a thing feasible? What kind of parachute do I need? (How big, what material?) I want to do this safely.

My friend is a healthy young adult, about 190lb.

posted by Marquis to Society & Culture (19 answers total)
Parachute material (of any kind, really) would not work for this application. The blankets used for blanket tossing are thick and very sturdy.

A few things to note: it takes a LOT of people to hold a blanket sufficiently tight. Second, the people who are tossed are typically quite small-- either children or small adults. 190 pounds is a lot and I'm having a hard time imagining a safe way to accomplish this.
posted by charmcityblues at 9:57 PM on June 9, 2013

A parachute takes time to deploy - far more time than mere humans could throw anyone via a blanket toss.

Maybe some kind of catapult?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:02 PM on June 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

I don't think Marquis is talking about tossing his friend up in the air wearing a parachute. He's talking about a situation where people stand in a ring holding the edge of a parachute and the friend gets in the middle of the parachute fabric and gets tossed up in the air, like this. In other words, he wants to replace the blanket in the blanket toss with a parachute.

You can look up instructions for parachute games [PDF] but I doubt that you will find instructions for tossing a human in the parachute. In the YouTube video I linked above, the adult-sized guy who gets tossed seems to hit the ground when he comes back down (he winces and writhes in response, then looks eager to get off the chute). It's probably hard to maintain enough tension on the chute to effectively catch a 190 pound person without them hitting the ground.
posted by Orinda at 10:08 PM on June 9, 2013 [2 favorites]

I don't think this will work because parachutes are cone shaped. The blankets for a blanket toss are flat, if they were cone shaped there would be no way to keep the toss-ee from hitting the ground. Also you need about 30 people to hold it.
posted by fshgrl at 10:18 PM on June 9, 2013

I think we did this in gym class when I was around 5.

About him hitting the ground, you guys could put cushioning underneath it.
posted by cairdeas at 10:19 PM on June 9, 2013

Response by poster: If it's impossible to use a parachute, what kind of blanket do we need?
posted by Marquis at 10:34 PM on June 9, 2013

Some googling leads me to believe that the blanket used is (still?) made from seal or walrus skins, and it has handles. This may not be a thing that is easily sourced. I may also be completely or partially wrong.
posted by rtha at 10:48 PM on June 9, 2013

A jumping sheet/life net, like the fire brigades used?
posted by travelwithcats at 11:02 PM on June 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think if you have no experience and no experienced person in charge, you can't do this safely and shouldn't try.
posted by tel3path at 11:40 PM on June 9, 2013 [11 favorites]

use a bag
posted by hortense at 12:20 AM on June 10, 2013

Perhaps your large friend could change his wish list while he is still healthy. Unless you have dozens of experienced Eskimos and one of their whale-watching blankets, this toss might not end well.
posted by Cranberry at 1:15 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Having been blanket-tossed by Inuits a few times myself (pro tip, white guys should think twice about this), I can tell you that "blanket" is made from sewn together bearded seal skins and was formerly a skin boat covering. Thick and heavy. And it is supported by ropes secured to heavy anchored poles, so the "tossing" does not involve the physical effort of lifting the blanket with its passenger, just flexing it up and down. (Although as a traditional hunting technique to see further across the tundra by gaining altitude, it was done with pure muscle power.)

A thin parachute help up entirely by human strength is going to be even more dangerous if you don't have very strong guys holding it. I have seen many get broken limbs doing the Inuit nalukataq game, and they are experts at it. Put something super soft underneath, at a minimum. But in the Inuit version I've seen people go 20 feet high and land 20 feet away. Or on one of the tosser-people. Ouch.

As they say its fun until someone gets hurt. Actually it's still fun, but Inuits are crazy about dangerous fun. YMMV.
posted by spitbull at 4:26 AM on June 10, 2013 [15 favorites]

Actually, what tel3path said. Don't do this freelance, a serious injury or death could result.
posted by spitbull at 4:30 AM on June 10, 2013

My dad and uncle used to play this with us kids when we were little. (Really little.)

Materials used:
-1 heavy canvas drop cloth
-pillows underneath just in case
-2 grown men in excellent shape
-children under 80 lbs
-a grandma off to the side shouting that we were all going to kill ourselves for sure

It was a LOT of fun.
posted by phunniemee at 4:34 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: And yes, the blanket is still made from seal skins (sometimes walrus but that stuff is like Kevlar). When a skin boat has its skin replaced, the old one is used for this, often painted with hunting crew logos. Not only does it have handles; it is laced all the way around the edge and each corner is attached to a 6-8 foot high pole anchored deeply in the sand/dirt, with the blanket tensioned until its range of motion is only about 2 feet vertically, and zero horizontally, so it cannot touch the ground. People stand all along the entire edge working it up and down.

The secret for the tossee is not to jump, but let yourself be thrown and then bounce.
posted by spitbull at 4:36 AM on June 10, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: Oh, and if you want to get tossed by pros, visit Barrow, Alaska (or any other North Slope coastal village) in early June during nalukataq season. Right now in fact. This is part if the ritual where whale meat is distributed by successful whaling crews to the whole community in a day long celebration (and there are as many nalukataqs as the number of whales a community gets).

They are always more than happy to toss non-Eskimo visitors (and feed you lots of fermented whale blood and blubber). It looks fun and easy until your turn comes. Most southerners don't last 20 seconds on the blanket. Eskimo dudes can stay on indefinitely doing tricks and flips and tossing candy to kids in the crowd while high in the air. The women, who often do this in full length fur parkas, are even better at it.

Really, if a tourist shows up in town for a week in early June the odds of you NOT getting tossed are pretty slim.

Of course the nearest level one trauma center is a two hour jet flight away, so think carefully.
posted by spitbull at 4:46 AM on June 10, 2013 [8 favorites]

Instead, what if you rent a big trampoline and everyone stands around it?
posted by carmicha at 5:06 AM on June 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Ah, good. As I was making coffee a minute ago, I thought to come back to this thread to suggest you memail spitbull if he hadn't already shown up, but he has, so....listen to him. This is a thing he knows about.
posted by rtha at 5:38 AM on June 10, 2013

I've seen army guys 200lbs or so tossed in fire blankets, which are wool blankets much like a Hudson's Bay blanket. 2-4 people hold the blanket with the other person lying face up in it much like in a soft-shelled taco. You can't really use more than 4 people, it gets crowded and the blankets aren't that big, but you can get a person well over your head when you toss them (lift and pull). Pick your best and strongest 4 to do it. The tossee tends to come out the end of the blanket where his feet are. I'm surprises nobody else here has experienced this.
posted by furtive at 8:29 PM on June 22, 2013

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