There’s plenty of kit available to kayakers these days – in fact some would argue too much. Flat water beach days, long distance touring, surfing, river running, fitness and recreational gear – whatever you’re into, chances are there’s something available with your niche in mind. But how to know what piece of kit does what? Sifting through reams of marketing spiel, advertising jargon and sale speak is sometimes confusing and there’s nothing quite like laying hands on toys and testing them out.

Testing, testing

Here at Sitons we’ve championed the performance of sit on top kayaking (yes there are some!) for a while. Many assume this humble craft is purely for dabblers; little skill needed and minimal performance delivered. Sit on top kayaks are applicable in all but the hardest core of environments and do more than just float. There’s actually quite a lot of thought, research and design put into sit on top products.

The Islander/Wilderness Systems trailer rolls into town But how to know what does what and which suits your wants and needs? This is where demo events come into play – and there are loads of them happening in the UK each summer.

Brothers in arms

Demo weekend

This weekend featured not one but two gatherings close to Sitons HQ. (OK, technically one was a charity event but there were still the opportunities to try some boats).

Sitons boss man Mr B dishes out some advice Shore Watersports’ demo weekend is popular with multi discipline enthusiasts who descend on East Wittering every June. This year was no different – the Solstice, large tides and glorious sunshine attracted hordes of visitors from all over. Perception Kayaks Europe, Islander Kayaks, Wilderness Systems and Tahe all had their wareson show. Additionally stand up paddle boards were on offer from Nah Skwell, Red Paddle Co and NSP while O’Neill provided the rubber. Those looking for dry land fun had Indo Board and each day was rounded off with a beach BBQ.

Two for tea – or paddling? All gatherings like this are pretty similar – laid back affairs with emphasis on fun. Not only will punters get the opportunity to play with spangly new kit, there’ll also be opportunities to natter with luminaries and pros of the sport.

Plenty to choose

Demos aren’t always called as such. Take Brighton’s ever popular Paddle Round the Pier or Hayling Island’s annual National Watersports Festival. These shindigs serve other purposes, but as with similar events, brands and companies still turn up with goodies. You’ll find plenty of kit to try and opportunities for getting afloat.

Busy busy! It’s not just big festivals that you should be looking out for though. There are plenty of smaller events on offer through high season.

Unfortunately keeping track of where (and sometimes when) demo events are happening is tricky. Social media streams are usually the first port of call – twitter and Facebook feeds are where most demo events will be announced. Key retailers are also worth following. Check out company websites and blogs – if updated regularly they’re usually a good source of info.

Missioning it Word of mouth plays a big part – in particular if you live close to a stretch of water where paddlers frequent you can guarantee at some point there’ll be a demo event on offer, even if it’s just small scale.

Kids

Demo events are brilliant for testing the water with your offspring. If Jonny or Jilly are tentatively looking to get involved with watersports this is where you can conduct a litmus test.

Fun for kids As long as the weather plays ball there’s no trouble your kids out for a splash.