Can You Kayak While Drunk? Dangers & Legal Trouble

Kayaking can be an exhilarating and enjoyable way to explore bodies of water, and for many, it is a popular outdoor activity to do with friends or family, so it may be tempting to crack open a cold beer or two while out on the water. 

But can you kayak while drunk? Before attempting to operate any kind of vehicle under the influence, it’s important to consider the risks and potential legal ramifications. 

You cannot kayak while drunk under any circumstance, as alcohol can impair your judgment and coordination, increasing the risk of accidents. Kayaking while drunk is also against the law and can result in fines, license suspension, or even jail time, depending on the state and jurisdiction. 

Keep reading to learn more about the dangers and legal consequences of kayaking while drunk.

Can You Kayak While Drunk?

a photo of a kayaker drinking to show can you kayak while drunk

While anyone can go Kayaking, No one should do so while drunk.

Kayaking is a physical activity that generally requires good balance, coordination, and quick decision-making skills, which can be severely affected by alcohol consumption.

So, you cannot kayak while drunk or under the influence of any other substances that may impair your judgment and coordination.

According to the U.S. Coast Guard, alcohol use is a leading contributing factor in recreational boating accidents. In 2019, there were 613 reported boating fatalities in the US, and alcohol use was listed as the leading known contributing factor in 23% of those fatalities. 

In addition, the Coast Guard reported that boating accidents involving alcohol are more likely to result in fatalities compared to those not involving alcohol.

While specific statistics on kayaking while drunk may not be readily available, it is important to recognize that the dangers of operating any watercraft while under the influence are significant. 

The Dangers of Kayaking While Drunk

Kayaking while drunk can be extremely dangerous and can lead to serious injuries or even death.

So, here are some of the dangers of kayaking while drunk:

  1. Impaired judgment: Alcohol consumption can impair judgment, making it difficult to assess risk and make sound decisions. This can lead to poor decision-making while kayaking, such as taking unnecessary risks, not wearing appropriate safety gear, or venturing into dangerous waters.
  2. Reduced coordination: Kayaking requires good balance, coordination, and reaction time. Alcohol consumption can affect your ability to balance and coordinate your movements, making it difficult to control your kayak, avoid obstacles, or react to changing conditions.
  3. Decreased reaction time: Alcohol consumption can slow your reaction time, making it difficult to respond to unexpected situations. This can increase the risk of accidents, such as collisions with other boats or running aground.
  4. Hypothermia: Kayaking while drunk can increase the risk of hypothermia, especially if you capsize or fall into the water. Alcohol consumption can impair your ability to recognize the early symptoms of hypothermia, such as shivering, confusion, and fatigue.

The Legal Consequences of Kayaking While Drunk

Kayaking while drunk is illegal in most places and can result in legal consequences, such as fines, license suspension, or even jail time. In addition, if you cause an accident while kayaking drunk, you can be held liable for any damages or injuries.

The laws regarding kayaking while drunk in the United States vary depending on the state and jurisdiction. However, most states have Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws that make it illegal to operate a watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Here is an overview of BUI laws in the US:

  • Various law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard and state and local police department enforce BUI laws
  • The legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) while operating a watercraft is usually the same as the legal limit for driving a car, which is 0.08%.
  • The penalties for BUI vary depending on the state and the severity of the offense.
    • In general, the penalties for a first-time offense can include fines, community service, and even jail time.
    • Repeated offenses can result in more severe penalties, including longer jail sentences and higher fines.
  • In many states, the act of operating a watercraft is considered “implied consent” to submit to a chemical test, such as a breathalyzer or blood test, if requested by a law enforcement officer.
    • Refusal to submit to a chemical test can result in penalties similar to those for BUI.

In addition to BUI laws, there may be other general regulations regarding kayaking or operating watercraft, such as speed limits, required safety equipment, and designated areas for kayaking. So, it is important to be aware of the laws and regulations in your area and always to prioritize your safety and the safety of others.


BUI stands for Boating Under the Influence, while BWI stands for Boating While Intoxicated.

Both terms refer to the act of operating a watercraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; however, the specific legal definitions and penalties can vary depending on the jurisdiction. For instance, in some states, BUI is the official term used to describe the offense of operating a watercraft while under the influence, while in others, the term BWI may be used instead.

It is important to note that regardless of the terminology, BUI and BWI laws are designed to prevent accidents and protect the safety of everyone on the water.


In conclusion, kayaking while drunk is not only dangerous but also illegal. It is important to prioritize your safety and the safety of others by avoiding alcohol consumption before kayaking. 

Additionally, always wear appropriate safety gear, such as a life jacket, and follow safe kayaking practices, such as staying in designated areas and avoiding risky behaviors. 

If you do choose to drink, do so responsibly and never operate a kayak or any other type of watercraft while under the influence.

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