Rules and regulations for kayak use vary depending on where you plan to kayak and the type of water you will be paddling. Remember, even if a particular activity is legal in one location, it may not be legal somewhere else
Kayaking vs Canoeing: The main difference between canoeing and kayaking is that people sit inside the kayak in a more reclined position while canoes are flat.
To start, check with the governing body of the water you plan to kayak upon to see what their rules and regulations are. These rules change based on your location, type of water you will be taking your kayak out onto, and time of year. There are some general rules that apply to kayaking more so than canoeing. These include:
Rules regarding life jackets: If you are planning on paddling near other people, your life jacket must be designed for the activity you are involved in and more importantly it must be worn at all times. You may not purchase or use a used or second-hand life jacket. The activity you are involved in must be listed on the label of your life jacket, and it must fit properly.
Kayaking rules regarding visibility:
In order to increase visibility when kayak fishing or paddling during times of limited daylight, a person operating a kayak must have attached white strobe lights at the front and back of the kayak. There must be an attached flag pole on top of the kayak that is at least 15 feet high with a ½ inch of solid color or pennant.
Rules regarding navigation:
A person operating a kayak may not operate more than 2 abreast when present in any narrow channel, fairway, or harbors.
Rules regarding swimmers:
While it may be legal to kayak alongside other people in the water, you must keep a safe distance away from any swimming areas. If you are caught paddling too close to a swimmer you will receive a citation and possibly be fined for interfering with public recreation.
Rules regarding speed:
You are not permitted to exceed a slow-no wake speed while operating your kayak.
When you are ready to buy your first kayak, there are some rules and regulations that apply to searching for used kayaks as well. These include checking the label of any used life jacket before purchase, checking the numbers on any used flag pole to make sure it is the right size, and checking for any cracks on your new kayak.
For additional regulation information please check here