Florida is like kayaking paradise. It has over 1,000 miles of ocean shoreline and even more lakes, rivers and streams you can paddle. And so you can paddle safely and legally, we’ve summarized the Florida kayak laws so you can be legal and safe, enjoying all that warm weather and wonderful water.
Not a Lawyer Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. More importantly, I am not your attorney. This article is not legal advice. If you desire legal advice, consult a competent, licensed attorney in your area.
Florida Kayaking Laws Summary
- Florida Kayaking Law – Florida considers kayaks and canoes to be non-motor powered vessels.
- Florida Kayak Registration – Non-motor-powered canoes and kayaks are exempted from registration.
- Motorized Kayak Registration – All motorized vessels operating on Florida’s public waterways must be titled and registered.
- Kayak Operator Licensing – There’s no minimum age in Florida to operate a kayak.
- Motorized Kayaking Age – However, to operate a vessel with 10 hp or more you need a boating education ID card and photo ID.
- Kayaking BUI Law – Florida has Boating Under the Influence (BUI) laws—0.08% BAL is considered under the influence. 0.02% if you’re under 21.
- Kayaking Life Jacket Law – One Life jacket on board per person. And children under 6 must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III PFD.
- Kayak Lights Law – Between sunset and sunrise and during periods of restricted visibility, non-motorized kayakers must carry at least a flashlight or lantern.
- Kayaking Sounding Devices – Vessels less than 16 feet must have some means of producing a sound.
- Kayaking VDS Law – On coastal waters, boats under 16 ft. must carry 3 nighttime VDS. Over 16 feet must carry 3 nighttime and 3 daytime VDS devices.
That only summarizes Florida boating laws applied to kayaking and canoeing. The details are more in-depth and specific. Read on to find out how to paddle legally in Florida.
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Florida Kayak Registration Laws
Do you need to register a kayak in Florida?
The quick answer is no. Non-motor-powered canoe, kayak, racing shell or rowing scull regardless of length are exempted from registration.
Do you have to register a kayak with a trolling motor in Florida?
The quick answer is yes. Each vessel that is operated, used, or stored on the waters of this state must be titled by this state unless it’s (as it pertains to Kayaks and Canoes):
- A non-motor-powered vessel less than 16 feet in length (see above reference to non-motorized kayak or canoes
So, all motorized vessels operating on Florida’s public waterways must be titled and registered. (Chapter 328 of the Florida Statutes details FL motorized boat registration laws.)
Related Article: Paddle Board Registration
Florida Kayaking Education Laws
Do you need a license to kayak in Florida?
The short answer is no. Florida doesn’t have a boating license requirement.
Do you need a license to operate a (motorized) kayak in Florida?
If you were born on or after January 1, 1988 you’re required to have successfully completed a National Association of State Boating Law Administrators (NASBLA) approved boating education course or have passed an equivalent course.
10 Horsepower Rule
Before operating a vessel with a motor of ten (10) horsepower or more in Florida, you must have in your possession a boating education ID card and a photo identification card.
Florida Kayaking Alcohol and Drug Laws
Can you get a DUI on a kayak in Florida? The quick answer is yes. It is a violation of Florida law to operate a vessel while impaired by alcohol or other drugs. You are considered under the influence if your blood or breath alcohol (BAL) level is 0.08% or more. And anyone operating a vessel who is under 21 years of age and has a BAL of 0.02% is in violation of Florida law.
Is a BUI the Same as a DUI in Florida? The quick answer is yes. Florida considers Boating Under the Influence (BUI) as bad as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and the penalties show that.
Related Article:Can You Get a DUI on a Kayak?
Florida BUI Penalties
Florida BUIs carry some hefty penalties:
- First offense – $500 to $1,000 fine and up to 6 month in prison
- Second Offense – $1,000 to $2,000 fine and up to 9 months in prison
- In the statutes there are further and more severe penalties for chronic repeat offenders
Can the police search your kayak in Florida?
The quick answer is yes. In 1790 the United States Revenue Cutter Service was created. They were authorized to board and search vessels, any time and for any reason to check for smuggled goods.
Now the United States Coast Guard has the same authority to board your boat.
Florida Boating Laws Life Jackets
Are life jackets required on kayaks and canoes in Florida?
The quick answer is yes. All vessels are required to have a wearable USCG-approved personal flotation device for each person.
PFDs must be:
- The appropriate size
- Easily accessible
- In serviceable condition
Florida PFD Age Rules
Children under 6 must wear a USCG-approved Type I, II or III personal flotation device while onboard a vessel under 26 feet in length when underway.
Do I need a Type IV “throwable” on my kayak in Florida?
The quick answer is that vessels 16 feet in length or longer must have a throwable Type IV PFD that’s immediately available.
Related Article: Kayak Life Jacket Laws by State (50 State List)
Florida Kayaking Lights Laws
What lights do I need on my kayak at night?
Recreational Vessel Lights
Recreational vessels are required to display navigation lights between sunset and sunrise and during periods of reduced visibility—fog, rain, haze.
Navigation lights are:
- Red and green bow lights for navigation
- A white stern light on a pole 3.3 feet high visible 360 degrees
Kayakers are required to carry a white light onboard their kayak. The kayaker is to display the light if another vessel approaches, to avoid a possible collision.
Most kayakers use a flashlight. You don’t have to display it continuously, just when other vessels are approaching.
These lights must be displayed:
- Between sunrise and sunset
- During periods of restricted visibility
NOTE: Red or Blue lights are reserved for police.
Lights While Moored or Anchored
Whenever moored or anchored away from a mooring area, between sunset and sunrise, you must display a white light that can be seen in all directions.
Florida Kayaking Sounding Devices Laws
Do I need a whistle to kayak in Florida?
The quick answer is yes. Kayakers are required to carry a sound-making device that can be heard for at least one-half nautical mile when the kayak is in use.
The best “sounding” device for kayakers and canoes is a whistle attached to your PFD in a place that’s easy and quick to reach.
Here’s what we consider to be the best whistle for kayaking.
VDS – Visual Distress Signaling Devices
Vessels less than 16 feet – must carry at least 3 nighttime visual distress signals when on coastal waters from sunset to sunrise.
Vessels 16 feet or longer – must carry at least 3 daytime and 3 nighttime VDS at all times when on coastal waters.
Florida Kayaking Fire Extinguisher Laws
Do I need a fire extinguisher on my motorized kayak in Florida? The quick answer is no. One USCG-approved B-1 type fire extinguisher is required for all recreational motorboats except outboard-powered motorboats less than 26 feet long if constructed in a manner that will not allow gas fumes to accumulate. (That’s your kayak or canoe with any trolling motor)
Non-motorized boats are exempt from the fire extinguisher requirements.
Additional Florida Kayaking Resources
- Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
- Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
- Florida Vessel Statutes
Florida Boating Laws and Enforcement
Florida kayaking laws and all other boating laws are enforced by:
- Division of Law Enforcement of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and its officers
- The sheriffs of the various counties and their deputies
- Municipal police officers
- Any other law enforcement officer