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Can you get a DUI on a Kayak?

Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak? A Comprehensive Guide


Can you get a DUI on a Kayak? – The question “Can you get a DUI on a Kayak?” is one that has been asked by many kayakers and water sports enthusiasts. The answer is not as straightforward as one might think, and it largely depends on the laws and regulations of the region you are in. This blog post aims to provide a comprehensive guide on this topic, covering everything from the definition of DUI and BUI, to the legal limits for boating, and the penalties for Boating Under the Influence.

Understanding DUI and BUI

DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence, while BUI stands for Boating Under the Influence. These terms are often used interchangeably, but they have slightly different implications. A DUI typically refers to operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, while a BUI refers to operating a boat or other watercraft under similar conditions.

The Law and Kayaking: A Global Perspective

United States

In the United States, the laws regarding DUI and BUI can vary from state to state. However, in most states, a kayak is considered a vessel, and therefore, the same laws that apply to motorized boats also apply to kayaks. This means that if you are operating a kayak while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you could be charged with a BUI.


In Canada, the laws are quite strict when it comes to drinking while kayaking. A kayak is considered a “vessel” and is subject to the same DUI laws as a motor vehicle. The legal limit for Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is .80 mg, and penalties for a BUI can range from fines starting at $600 to several months of jail time.

UK, Australia, and New Zealand

In the UK, alcohol legislation only applies to watercraft in excess of 23 feet. However, you can still be arrested for public intoxication or disturbing the peace if you become unruly or dangerous. In Australia and New Zealand, kayakers are subject to follow the same laws as every other water vessel, meaning that there is absolutely no tolerance towards drinking while kayaking.

What Constitutes a Vessel?

The definition of a vessel can vary from one jurisdiction to another. However, in most cases, any watercraft used for transportation, including kayaks, canoes, and paddleboards, is considered a vessel. This means that the laws regarding DUI and BUI apply to these watercraft as well.

The Legal Limits for Boating

The legal limits for boating, in terms of BAC, are typically the same as the legal limits for driving a motor vehicle. In many jurisdictions, this limit is 0.08%. However, it’s important to note that the effects of alcohol can vary greatly from person to person, and even a small amount can impair your ability to operate a kayak safely.

Penalties for Boating Under the Influence

The penalties for BUI can be quite severe, ranging from fines to jail time. In addition, a BUI conviction can also lead to the suspension of your boating license, and in some cases, your driver’s license.

The Role of Passengers: Can They Be Impaired?

In many jurisdictions, the laws regarding BUI also apply to passengers. This means that if a passenger is impaired, they could also be charged with a BUI. Therefore, it’s important for all occupants of a kayak to be sober.

What If the Boat Has Stopped Moving?

Even if a kayak is stationary, the operator can still be charged with a BUI if they are impaired. This is because the potential for harm still exists, especially if the kayak is in a busy waterway or indangerous conditions.

How to Avoid Getting a DUI or BUI on a Kayak

The best way to avoid getting a DUI or BUI on a kayak is to not consume alcohol or drugs before or during your kayaking trip. Here are some additional tips:

  • Always have a designated sober person if you plan on consuming alcohol.
  • Be aware of the laws and regulations in your area.
  • Always prioritize safety over fun.

The Effects and Dangers of Kayaking Under the Influence

Operating a kayak under the influence of alcohol or drugs can have serious consequences. Here are some of the effects and dangers:

  • Impaired Judgment: Alcohol and drugs can impair your judgment, making it difficult to make quick decisions or react to changing conditions.
  • Decreased Motor Control: Alcohol and drugs can affect your motor skills, making it difficult to navigate your kayak.
  • Increased Risk of Hypothermia: Alcohol expands blood vessels, causing you to lose heat faster. This can increase your risk of hypothermia if you fall into cold water.
  • Increased Risk of Drowning: Impaired swimmers are less likely to be able to get back into their kayak if they capsize.

What to Do When Stopped by the Police

If you are stopped by the police while kayaking, it’s important to remain calm and cooperative. Here are some tips:

  • Clearly display any required safety equipment or registration.
  • Follow the officer’s instructions.
  • If you have been drinking, be honest about it. Lying or being evasive can lead to more serious charges.


Understanding the implications of DUI or BUI while kayaking is crucial for anyone who enjoys this activity. Not only can a conviction lead to serious penalties, but operating a kayak while under the influence can also put your life and the lives of others at risk. Always prioritize safety and make sure you are familiar with the laws and regulations in your area.


For more information on the topics covered in this blog post, check out the following resources:

Remember, the best way to enjoy kayaking is to do so responsibly. Stay safe and have fun on the water!

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