Cardboard Boat Rules


The whistle blows, the boaters paddle as fast as they can as a hush falls over the crowd. It’s the annual Cardboard Boat Regatta. Cardboard boats are just that: boats made strictly out of corrugated cardboard, most often used for recreation purposes in regattas and racing competitions usually at fairs, fund-raisers and other community events. Cardboard boat competitions are enjoyable both as a participant and an observer. As with any competition, cardboard boat rules and guidelines are in place to qualify participants for competition.

Use Only Authorized Materials in Construction

  • Use authorized materials only in constructing your cardboard boat. The majority of competitions only allow corrugated cardboard (of any thickness). Carpet tubes are also permitted at times—but absolutely no corrugated cardboard bonded to another material.

    Use tape on the seams of the boat only, and fasteners as needed for the propeller. Acceptable fasteners consist of staples, nuts, bolts, washers and additional corrugated cardboard.

    Never use epoxy or any other two-part glue, and no glue can cover the entire boat. Additional forbidden materials include varnish, shrink wrap, plastic wrap, foam, plastic or wood.

    Any infringement on the cardboard boat construction rules will lead to the boat builder's disqualification from the competition.

Construct a Solid Boat

  • Construct a solid, strong cardboard boat in order to be competitive in the race and keep the passengers safe. Think of the construction in terms of numbers: One cubic foot of water weighs approximately 62 pounds; that means a 180-pound person will float in a boat measuring 1 foot by 1 foot by 3 feet. Always retain 18 inches in height on the sides to keep out water while allowing passengers to reach over the side to paddle, if needed.

    Start construction at the bottom of the boat. Build a solid foundation, then build up from there. Cut against the grain of the corrugated cardboard for durability, and use folds instead of cuts whenever possible for stability.

Propel Your Boat

  • Qualifying cardboard boats are propelled in two possible ways. One way involves using a canoe paddle, kayak paddle or oar, while the other involves using muscle-powered devices such as paddle wheels or propellers.

    Propelling your boat is the only exception to the cardboard rule. COmpetitions still permit the propulsion device if made from unauthorized materials such as wood or plastic.

Have Fun and Be Safe

  • Safety comes first with no exceptions to this rule. Cardboard boat races are for recreational entertainment, creativity and amusement for spectators and boaters alike. To remain safe and qualify for the race and prizes, participants must wear a proper life jacket, remain in the boat and stay visible to judges throughout the duration of the race. Under no circumstances should a passenger leave the boat during the rac, and no cover is permitted on the boat as it blocks passengers from view.

    Strive for safety and creativity in designing and constructing your cardboard boat. Follow the competition rules and guidelines. Most importantly, have fun.

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  • Photo Credit carton d'emballage image by Unclesam from oars image by Christopher Hall from lake image by Alison Bowden from
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