I believe that an important factor in public perception of various activities is the notion, rightly or wrongly held, that the activity is "inherently" dangerous. I think the public at large holds rock climbing to be inherently dangerous, also whitewater paddling, free diving, and, were they widely practiced, also would be highwire walking, the handling of poisonous snakes, etc. The public is thus prepared to accept fatalities (which are rare, as these activities are not widely practiced) as just part of the way things are.
The public also knows that hundreds and thousands of people die while driving cars and riding bicycles--they easily visualize, and often see, the impacts, and again just regard the accidents and deaths as the way things are.
But recreational boating is differently regarded: we visualize sunshine, breezes, sparkling waters, the sailboats gliding swanlike across the bay, the canoeists plying their paddles, the jet skis whizzing about like waterbugs, the happy waterskiers, the powerboats with their fishermen or sun worshippers aboard..... How can this be reconciled with lone kayakers out on wave-torn seas, caught in swift and turbulent currents under dark and foreboding skies, struggling alongside their capsized boats, frantically calling out for succor?....... What kind of people are these--thinks the public mind--who so misuse this wonderful opportunity for safe and peaceful recreation? Shouldn't something be done?
This is my fear: that someday those upon whom falls the responsibility for crafting and administering boating regulations will decide that sea kayakers must be subject to some sort of limits or strictures, in order to save them from themselves. I hope this never happens; I sense that there is still a strong bias towards unhampered individual responsibility, but I think the Sea Kayaking Industry could certainly do a much better job of realistically presenting sea kayaking, and its real possibilities for danger, to the public at large that it is so eager to market to.