Can You Get A DUI On A Kayak

Kayaks are often seen as fun toys used to have some enjoyment, laugh, and paddle around as we enjoy freedom while on the open water.

If away from home and you are enjoying yourself, you may have a couple of drinks at lunch with no thought of the consequences.

However, there are health hazards you ought to know of when drinking alcohol around water, and most of all, there are not many who ever consider boating under the influence.

Man rowing in kayak

In our guide, you can learn all you need to know about local boat drinking laws on a body of water. You’ll also discover the answer: Can you get a DUI in a canoe or a DUI on a kayak.


A DUI is often associated with driving a motor vehicle. However, you may find distinct regulations, such as BUI laws.

A BUI is boating under the influence of any controlled substance and can affect a kayak operator. You can add BWI into the mix, which is more specific and is Boating While Intoxicated.

What is a Vessel in the Eyes of the Law?

It can be tricky to understand what is classed as a vessel and what isn’t. officers often have to make their own judgment to apply BUI laws in this scenario.

The simple way is to assume, if your kayaks have a trolling motor, then it’s a vessel. It may not be the same across the 50 states, yet it is better to be safe.

If there is no motor, it can be even more confusing. However, like the above, in many states, the officers will class anyone powering a kayak is indeed operating a vessel, even though you have no motor.

Effect of Alcohol While on Water

Paddling while being intoxicated or under the influence of alcohol will affect you very differently as being drunk on dry land.

You have several factors to think of, which can impair your senses.

Wind and water can tire you out quickly and thus contribute to low levels of awareness. Combine these with alcohol, and you may find yourself intoxicated quicker than on land.

Man kayaking in intense waters

Losing balance when paddling happens too often, and if in the middle of the lake, it can have a severe outcome.

Alcohol lowers body temperature, and even more so when in cold water. You find a common thing boaters can experience, and which they call ‘boater’s hypnosis.’ It means you have impaired senses while on the water in comparison to land. You even find this occurs when you are sober, so it can be even worse when drinking. (Read Kayaking with Kids)

Global Boating Laws on Operating a Kayak While Drink

While every state has rules and regulations about handing out a BUI boating, it reaches much further than merely inside the USA. This level of boating laws reaches global proportions.

If you are kayaking in another country, you need to be sure you brush up on their laws as you would any state in the USA. Here’s a quick rundown of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the UK.

New Zealand

Kayaks are vessels the same as any other vehicle. You can be prosecuted when operating a boat under the influence and causes unnecessary danger.


Australia doesn’t use the same terms, such as BUI or DUI; they use BAL limits. Anyone paddling or in control of a vessel/ skippers, even if anchored, is subject to the blood alcohol limits law, which has to be less than 0.05.

United Kingdom

One country that differs is the UK. Drinking isn’t allowed when kayaking or on a vessel that is longer than 23 feet. It is very different from on land, where drink driving is highly frowned upon.

Boaters can be prosecuted under the Merchant Shipping Act 1995. If actions on the water are seen to endanger other vessels, structures, or individuals while under the influence of alcohol.


If the UK appears relaxed, Canada sure goes to another level in the other direction. Nearly 70% of boating injuries are because of drinking alcohol or being drunk on a boat.

The Criminal Code of Canada states, ’ yes, it’s illegal to operate a boat when impaired by alcohol or drugs.’ Also, when boating or kayaking, the law states you should have a BAC (blood alcohol concentration) of 80mg (0.08%) or lower.

Legal penalties can also be harsh.

  • One offense – $600 Fine for kayaking when drinking
  • Second offense – $600 Fine and laws dictate even jail time for 14 days
  • Repeat offender – $600 Fine and 90 days in jail

Besides this, passengers can only drink alcohol if the vessel has permanent cooking facilities, sleeping facilities, a permanent toilet, and the boat is anchored.

Drunk While You Operate a Kayak

The answer to the main question is, yes, you can get a DUI or the equivalent BUI when you are kayaking after a drink or you are drunk.

It may vary from state to state, yet at this time, it is better to know that you can face the same penalties when you paddle kayaking when drunk as you would when driving.

Besides this, you need to consider the health hazards of paddling your kayak or canoe after a couple of drinks. You don’t have to be drunk to put yourself at risk of harm or worse when out in the middle of the water.

You may like your kayak, yet the law may not like you to enjoy it too much, with a can of beer too many, or a large glass of wine with lunch.

Can You Get A DUI On A Kayak