Kayaking rules and regulations

Although it is a very accessible sport, a kayak is still a boat. And as such, it is subject to boating regulations

Kayaking rules and regulations

Although it is a very accessible sport, a kayak remains a craft that is subject to boating regulations. Here are the rules you should know before heading out to sea, or entering a body of water, so that you can paddle in safety!

#1 Beach craft 

Is your inflatable or rigid kayak less than 3.5 meters long? If so, you have what is called a beach craft. You must never go more than 300 meters from shore (from a point on the coast where any craft or vessel and its crew can safely anchor or dock and leave again without assistance). 

A buoyancy aid is not mandatory but strongly recommended to make it easier to get back into the boat in the event of a capsize.

kayak rules beach craft

#2 Seagoing vessel

This applies if you have a rigid kayak or inflatable kayak with at least 2 separate air chambers that is more than 3.50 meters long and is certified as "seaworthy" by the manufacturer. You can then paddle up to 2 nautical miles (approx. 3 km) from shore. In this case, you must have the following safety equipment:       
• a life jacket compliant with European standards for each person on board.       
• a mooring rope (painter) with karabiner, at least as long as the boat       
• a spare paddle       
• a way of sealing the cockpit(s), except for sit-on-tops       
• a bailer tied to the boat or a bilge pump (except for self-draining boats)       
• a tow hook (or equivalent) for towing       
• a throw line       
• a light signalling device (safety light, glow stick, etc.)

#3 Sheltered water navigation rules

Certain bodies of water have specific navigation rules.      
- Swimming areas are prohibited unless your kayak is a beach craft;      
- In most cases, you should avoid paddling among swimmers;     
- It is forbidden to cross the path of port entry and exit channels, signposted from the coast by cylindrical red buoys on your right, and conical green buoys on your left;     
- Do not cross the path of vessels restricted in their ability to maneuver (vessel engaged in a towing operation, sailing vessel, vessel constrained by its draught, etc.);     
- Find out about the protected areas on your route;     
- Avoid paddling alone and make sure somebody knows where you are.     
- Always take your smartphone with you (in a watertight pouch) so that you can call for help if you need it (in France, call SNSM in an emergency on 196)

kayak water navigation rules
Kayaking rules and regulations


Right of way at sea 
At sea, vessels restricted in their ability to manoeuvre have priority. In a kayak, you will therefore only have priority over power-driven vessels, which have unrestricted manoeuvrability. You must also keep away from sailing vessels, which have less manoeuvrability than you.  

Right of way on a river
On the river and in sheltered water, a kayak is considered a small craft: it must therefore give way to all craft over 15 m (barge, cruise ship). Again, you will have to give way to sailing vessels, but a power-driven vessel less than 15 m long will have to manoeuvre to stay out of your way.  

Right of way... between two kayaks 
Priority to whoever is on the right! And if you find yourself face to face, you should pass on the right of the other user... just imagine you are driving in Europe!