Can You Get A DUI On A Kayak?

We all know that it’s illegal, irresponsible and foolish to drink and drive. But what about kayaks? Is it wrong to have a couple of beers while you’re paddling on the river or fishing in the lake?

According to Recreational Boating Statistics, alcohol is among the leading causes for fatal boating accidents in addition to inexperience, inattention, and speed. That troubling statistics aside, you are probably wondering what could happen if the Coast Guard catches you drinking and operating a boat. Can you get a DUI on a kayak or even spend time in jail?

You’re lucky. Today we’re going to talk about everything you need to know about alcohol and kayaking.

The Rules Around Drinking While Paddling

If you’re looking for the short answer, it’s yes. Most countries have BUI (boating under the influence or after using drugs) laws, so it’s very probable that you’ll be in trouble if they catch you drinking and boating.

You probably think that a kayak is not in the same category as a motorboat and BUI regulations don’t matter if you’re just having fun in your kayak. But some don’t make a difference between motorized vessels and man-powered ones.

In the USA, for example, the regulations vary by the state, so you’ll have to check the specifics before taking your kayak to the water. Depending on the state, you might receive one or a combination of these:

  • ​Large fines
  • ​Jail time
  • ​Misdemeanor/felony conviction
  • ​Suspension of your boating privileges
  • ​Suspension of a driving license
  • ​Completion of a DUI program
  • ​Completion of a boat safety

Most states have established the BAC (blood alcohol content) at 0,08%, except North Dakota and Wyoming (0.1%). It means that having only one or two drinks might be enough to get into legal troubles no matter if you’re boating or driving.

But what about the other countries around the world? Well, Canada also has strict laws against boating while intoxicated, and it doesn’t exclude muscle-powered vehicles like canoes, kayaks, and rafts, even though there was a bill drafted last year. The same goes for Australia and New Zealand.

The situation in the UK is slightly different. It’s not illegal to drink and paddle in your kayak, but you can still be prosecuted if you’re deemed to be impaired by the drinks.

So, I would advise that you check the regulations of your country or the country you’re visiting. Also, make sure that you check if you need a license to operate a kayak.

Is it dangerous to drink and paddle?

Some countries may not have explicit laws regarding kayaking and drinking. That might prompt you to ask if it’s that dangerous to drink and paddle in a boat.

I would say that boating under the influence much more dangerous than driving a car when intoxicated. The simplest reason is that you’re in the middle of a lake/river and there might be no one around to notice that something is wrong or help you.

In addition to this, paddling in a kayak requires continuous concertation and observation. Nature is unpredictable, and you need to be aware of the signs that a storm or another disaster is approaching so that you can get to safety.

What are the dangers of BUI?

Besides the fines and possible jail time, you have excellent reasons to avoid drinking and operating a boat or a kayak. The alcohol influences your rational thinking, slows down your reflexes, and affects your awareness of your surroundings. Depending on how much you’ve consumed you might even lose consciousness.

​What’s more:

  • ​You get drunk faster in the sea than on land. The sun, the wind, and the waves in combination with the efforts needed to paddle the kayak leave you exhausted.
  • ​It’s very likely that drinking will affect your balance and you can overturn the kayak by accident.
  • ​Alcohol lowers the temperature of the body, so falling in the cold water would be dangerous.
  • ​You need to stay concentrated to avoid collisions.
  • ​In some cases, the weather can change quickly, and you need to be in full possession of your faculties to make the correct judgment.

Drinking and paddling in a kayak is not a smart move even if it seems innocent and fun. As I already said, many boating accidents occur because of drinking and kayaking is not an exception. Do not underestimate Mother Nature and its dangers. Follow the safety regulations and be careful.