Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak? Boating Drinking Laws


How often have you seen bottles of champagne and wine in a yacht’s bar or cans of beer in an angler’s kayak cooler? Most likely your answer would be, “Pretty often.” Although indulging in alcoholic beverages may be seen as part of boating culture, holding on to this perception may well be one of the biggest mistakes of your life.

Can You Get A DUI On A Kayak?

If you’re looking for a short answer, it is yes. Accordingly, operating any type of marine vessel under the influence of alcohol is illegal, and being charged with BUI (boating under the influence) or DUI on kayaks and other watercraft comes with serious illegal and financial repercussions.

Boating Under the Influence (BUI)

All 50 states in the USA have BUI laws. BUI or boating under the influence is defined as operating a watercraft on a body of water while under the influence of alcohol. Laws and regulations like these were created to prevent or at least minimize the chances of an intoxicated person operating a marine vessel on the water and causing harm to one’s self and others.

Depending on which state you’re in, you can be charged with BUI if you’re caught operating a marine vessel while your blood-alcohol levels are at 0.08% or 0.10%. And it’s not just the US that has laws like these. Other countries and other popular boating and kayaking destinations like Australia, New Zealand, and Canada have similar laws as well.

Dangers of BUI

Because of the detrimental effects that alcohol can have on your thinking and motor skills, you’re very likely to cause accidents to yourself and others. Also, you’re lack of awareness of what’s happening around you while in the water puts you and others at higher risks and danger.

Impaired Physical and Mental Abilities

When out in the water, many factors can affect your physical and mental abilities. The hot sun, the noise, the wind, and the constant rocking motion of your boat, kayak, or canoe can lead to fatigue. All these factors, combined with the negative effects of alcohol can cause you to become intoxicated quicker than on land.

Because of this, you are bound to forget even the simplest of boating and kayaking rules. For instance, you may forget to follow charts properly or ignore hazards to navigation. You may even be unable to do survival techniques like self-rescue if your kayak capsizes. As we all know, consuming alcohol affects your balance, and when you’re in a kayak, it can be hazardous, as good balance is necessary to prevent capsizing.


One of the scariest things that can happen to you when enjoying canoeing or kayaking under the influence of alcohol is a collision. Hundreds of collisions with other boats and fixed objects in the water are being reported to the authorities every year. If you’re boating or kayaking in a particularly high-traffic waterway, you cannot ignore the possibility of other boats coming from different directions and with varying speeds ramming into kayak or boat.


There are extra dangers to look out for when you’re on the water compared to on land. Because alcohol lowers your body temperature, falling in the water can be even more dangerous, especially in colder weather.

Consequences of a BUI Conviction

Considering the seriousness of injuries and fatalities caused by boating under the influence, convictions can have severe criminal and civil consequences. Depending on where you committed the offense, some or most of the following can apply.

  • Unlike DUI on the road where you get a ticket, BUI can leave you with a criminal record.
  • You can face jail time, especially if others were injured or killed in the accident.
  • If you are a commercial boat operator, you can have your business license suspended or revoked.
  • BUI conviction can generate monetary fines.
  • BUI convictions can affect your boat and auto insurance rates.
  • You can lose your driver’s license.
  • You may be required to attend alcohol addiction counseling

Safety Tips

To prevent posing any danger to yourself, your family, your friends, or to any other boater or person you’re sharing the water with, here is something you need to remember.

Be Extra Careful on Major Holidays

The grand festivities during major holiday weekends have provided people with another excuse to party and drink. Perhaps this is why alcohol-related accidents both on land and water always seem to go up on such days. This is why coast guards usually step up their efforts during these times of the year, doing their best to identify boaters under the influence of alcohol. Besides, practice defensive boating skills to stay safe from other boaters or kayakers who may be boating under the influence.

Know the Local Boating Regulations

Before you even think about buying a boat or a kayak, be sure that you’re aware of the different boating regulations in your locality. Information such as these is usually available online through your local government portal or website. You can also join your local boating or kayaking club.

Also, if you are planning to take your boat to a different state for a weekend kayak camping trip, be sure to acquaint yourself with that state’s boating laws and regulations. Understand what the state’s laws say about BUI including grounds for pressing charges and penalties.

Avoid Drinking Completely

Avoid-Drinking-CompletelyTo avoid any unfortunate accidents while boating or kayaking, it is better to simply avoid drinking alcohol completely. Remember, operating any marine vessel requires solid concentration to stay safe. This is especially true when kayaking since you will most likely be on your own, and having no alcohol in your system will allow you to focus more and react better should any untoward incident occurs.

Globo Surf Overview

Not all countries in the world may have laws against operating water vessels like motorboats and kayaks while intoxicated. However, this does not mean that you can go ahead and indulge in your favorite alcohol while out in the water. Remember, the dangers associated with BUI or DUI on kayaks and other marine vessels are serious and real, often resulting in damage or loss of property and even lives. So to avoid any untoward incidents while out in the water, discipline yourself to not drink any alcohol while operating your boat. Instead, focus on having fun and enjoying your water adventure and save the drinking for when you’re safely back on land.

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My name is David Hamburg. I am an avid water sports fan who enjoys paddle boarding, surfing, scuba diving, and kite surfing. Anything with a board or chance I can get in the water I love! I am such a big fan I decided to start this website to review all my favorite products and some others. Hope you enjoy!