Paddling is an increasingly popular way for people to enjoy time on the water. Paddle craft, such as kayaks, canoes, rowboats, and stand-up paddle boards are relatively inexpensive, highly portable, and easy for beginners to maneuver. Even though paddle craft do not typically have a motor, they are still considered boats and paddlers need to be familiar with the navigation laws in NYS.
Did you know that in 2021 paddle craft users were involved in 25% of all boating accidents in New York and accounted for 50% of the recreational boating fatalities for the year? One of the best ways to stay safe on the water as a paddler is to always wear your lifejacket. Hidden hazards in the water, inclement weather, and unpredictable currents are as much a danger to paddlers as they are to motorized boaters, and wearing your lifejacket helps protect you and your family in unexpected circumstances. Please note that in New York State, lifejacket wear is required for all boaters under 12 years of age and for all recreational boaters (including paddle craft users) aboard a vessel less than 21 feet in length from November 1-May 1 (cold water months).
All boats - including paddle craft - MUST have one lifejacket for each person on board. Your lifejacket must be:
Remember that the best place to store your lifejacket is on your body.
There are different styles of lifejackets designed with paddle craft users in mind. These styles feature larger arm holes for greater range of motion, mesh or high back panels for a less bulky fit, and more points of adjustability. Stand up paddleboard users often opt for an inflatable waist belt type PFD (pictured below). For more information on how to choose the right lifejacket, check out this brochure from the US Coast Guard
Required Gear for Paddle Craft
All paddle craft must have:
There are additional equipment carriage requirements for paddle craft equipped with motors. Click here for more information https://www.nxtbook.com/nxtbooks/nysparks/ny_boatersguide_21/index.php#/p/28
Be Safe and Be Seen
Some paddle craft, particularly kayaks, sit very low in the water and are difficult for motorized boaters to see. You can stay safe by making sure you are seen and following these tips:
Request FREE reflective paddle safety stickers by sending a self-addressed, stamped legal size envelope to:
NYS Parks Marine Services Bureau
Albany, NY 12238
Help stop the spread of Aquatic Invasive Species. Be sure to Clean, Drain and Dry your boat before launching it in a new body of water. Find a boat decontamination station here: NYS Public Boat Launches with Boat Stewards or Decontamination Services (arcgis.com)
Learn more about Aquatic Invasive Species here: Aquatic Invasive Species Boat Stewards - NYS Dept. of Environmental Conservation
Paddle craft that utilize manual propulsion (do not have any type of motor attached) DO NOT need to be registered in NY State. However, registration is required in NYS for all mechanically propelled boats. This includes canoes and kayaks with small electric or gas motors. Click the registration tab for more information.2. Do I need a boating safety certificate for paddle craft operation?
A boating safety certificate is recommended, but not required for manually propelled craft. If your vessel is equipped with a motor, no matter how small, you will need a safe boating certificate. This applies to sail boats with auxiliary motors as well.
There is no minimum age in New York for a child to legally operate a manually propelled boat. Children operating paddle craft should be able to sit up on their own, be able to flip themselves onto their back and float while wearing a lifejacket in the water, be mature enough to remain seated for the duration of the paddle and understand that they should not lean over the sides of the boat. Children under 12 must always wear a US Coast Guard approved life jacket of the proper size when in a boat. Parents should encourage children to practice floating in their lifejacket before heading out onto the water. A child who panics during a capsize can drown if they cannot position their head above water - even while wearing a lifejacket. If the child will be paddling their own kayak, be sure the boat and paddle are properly sized as larger boats will be difficult and frustrating for smaller children to maneuver.4. Where can I launch my kayak?
You can search for a boat launch site at https://parks.ny.gov/boating/launch-sites.aspx
You can also download the FREE Parks Explorer App to find information about State Parks with boat launches and kayaking. Learn more: https://parks.ny.gov/explorer-app/5. Can I bring my kayak/canoe etc from another state to use in New York? Do I need to do anything special before launching in New York?
There are no special permits or paperwork needed for out-of-state visitors to use their paddle craft in New York. Help us keep New York's waters healthy and stop the spread of invasive
species by making sure you clean, drain and dry your vessel before launching into a new body of water. Learn more about Aquatic Invasive Species here:
Be informed and take a FREE Paddle Sports Safety Course at https://www.boaterexam.com/paddling/
Familiarize yourself with paddling tips and best practices from the American Canoe Association