Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak? Here’s The Truth!

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Kayaking is a fantastic, explorative hobby. A lot of people will tell you that there really is no greater way to explore the great outdoors than plotting your path down a beautiful body of water in a well-crafted kayak. But, people must always remain safe and aware of themselves when using this or any craft. If you are a kayaker, or looking to take up kayaking in some form, the best thing that you can do is follow the rules.

A lot of people ask ‘Can you get a DUI while on a kayak?’, and really there is no short answer to this. This is because, whatever the answer is, there is a lot of moral reasoning surrounding it as well. So, we are going to try and give you every little piece of info on whether or not you can get a DUI on a kayak.

What is kayaking?

Kayaking is the act of moving across a body of water in a kayak. A kayak is a long, narrow boat propelled by a double sided paddle. It was invented by Inuit people, but in modern times has taken on popularity as an explorative past time. There are a few different types of kayaking, and these are:

kayaking type

  • White-water kayaking – this is when a kayaker braves it down a fast-paced, high-octane stretch of river with dips, drops and rocks too.
  • Recreational kayaking – this is mainly taken up in order to explore nature from a unique vantage point
  • Sit-on-top kayaking – this is very much the same thing as recreational, but on a kayak that doesn’t have a hole in which you can sit.
  • Surf kayaking – this is where someone in a kayak takes to the waves, and uses them as momentum to ride their kayak. Quite similar to surfing in a lot of ways.

What is a DUI?

You may have heard of a DUI if you have passed your driving test or know a lot about highway laws. A DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence. The influence being alcohol. Though ‘the limit’ of which you can drink while being okay to drive is different in different places, it’s usually around 1 drink. This is to deter anyone from trying their luck with drinking and driving, as this can lead to huge accidents caused by slow reactions and impaired vision. A driver will usually get a warning the initial time they are caught driving drunk, dependent on the circumstance. But after that it can lead to graver punishments, such as fines, educational sessions and even jail time.

Though it is important to know what a DUI is (especially if you are a driver), the abbreviation we need to focus on is a BUI. This stands for Boating Under the Influence, and pertains to motorised and manual boating vehicles.

Can you get a DUI/BUI while kayaking?

The short answer is yes. In most places in the world, you will get a DUI/BUI whilst kayaking. But let’s get as specific as possible, so you know exactly what the rules are, where you are.

USA & Canada – Yes. It is illegal to operate any sort of travelling vessel or vehicle when over the limit. This is a law that applies in all 50 states of America. Canada has similarly strict laws when it comes to kayaking under the influence. Though it is best to check the specifics of what ‘the limit’ is where you live, it is probably best just to avoid the driving or riding of any vehicle after you’ve had a drink.

Australia & New Zealand – Australia have a law banning the driving of any water vehicle while drunk, and of course kayaking comes under this laws jurisdiction. If you are caught drinking and manning a kayak, you can be fined and prosecuted. New Zealand laws state that you should avoid manning a water-based vehicle when drunk, and that you can get prosecuted if you do not abide by this.

The UK – In the UK it is actually to operate a kayak if you’ve been drinking alcohol. This is because legislation only applies to crafts that are longer than 23 feet. Although, if you are in the UK don’t celebrate just yet! If you are found to be impaired by alcohol whilst you are in or on a kayak, you can still very easily be prosecuted for doing so.

What are the dangers of kayaking whilst drunk?

There is an inherent danger in doing anything whilst you are drunk. Your reaction time is impaired and your vision and awareness of a situation is blurred as well. Here are a few specific problems you might run into whilst manning a kayak when you are drunk:

women drinking

  • You may find yourself unable to cooperate with your friends and teammates. This is dangerous as when you are kayaking, you really need to be able to communicate with those around you 24/7. This ensures that everyone is aware of everyone’s safety, and that no one splits off from the group by mistake.
  • You are much more likely to make bad decisions when you are drunk, like going into uncharted waters or into rougher terrain than you really should. This can be dangerous as you may be too unaware to deal with the situation properly.
  • You may not be aware that your kayak is sinking. All caught up in the splendour of nature (and alcohol!) it’s hard to remember your surroundings. And if you find that your boat is sinking, it can be hard to remember what to do in all the panic.
  • Not only are you unable to communicate, you may become quite surly and frustrated with your partners or team. This can lead to poor decisions being made, and people being put in danger.

For these reasons, kayaking is dangerous. Avoid getting a DUI/BUI while kayaking and don’t drink at all!

How can I avoid getting a DUI/BUI?

Well other than the obvious answer of ‘don’t drink alcohol!’ there are a number of safeguards you can put in place to avoid getting a DUI on kayak. They are:

  • Don’t even bring alcohol on your excursion, as then you will not be tempted.
  • Make sure everyone gets a good sleep and is in the right frame of mind to go kayaking.
  • Go out for a drink afterwards! You can celebrate a successful kayaking trip and drink as much as you like (as long as you are not driving!).
  • Make sure every one is fully aware of the rules and regulations when it comes to kayaking and doing so under the influence. You don’t want anybody to be able to say that they didn’t know.
  • Drink non-alcoholic beer! If you really want the taste of beer whilst kayaking, then non-alcoholic is the way to go!


Now that you know the dangers of kayaking under the influence, go and have fun! Make sure that you stay safe, don’t drink before an excursion and remember to keep your wits about you. Though it is a fun day out, you are dealing with bodies of water that can be quite dangerous, so you want to behave accordingly!

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