In a brief essay titled Freedom Lost, appearing in the Summer/Fall 2012 issue of Adventure Kayak, sea kayaking elder John Dowd argues that the number of "serious" sea kayakers (not defined) is dropping, and that this is the result of sea kayaking becoming a "belonging or following activity" rather than a "freedom-centered activity". Dowd poses both of these trends (do they exist?) as serious problems for the future of sea kayaking (are they?), but offers no data, only a few ambiguous and enigmatic personal anecdotes. Is any of this true? If true, is any of this relevant?
Dowd's essay is an amplification of opinions he previously expressed in a letter published in the Spring 2008 issue of AK, in which he bemoaned the fact that a high percentage of those completing sea kayaking courses do not continue paddling. Again, no data. Again, how true? If true, how relevant?
But the absence of data does not deter Dowd from fashioning a bizarre hypothesis of would-be sea kayakers becoming deterred from becoming fully involved in the activity because they sense a loss of "freedom" in being urged to learn to roll, to master "in excruciating detail...an array of marginally relevant white water strokes", and to learn "a forward stroke taken straight from flatwater racing." Horrors! Sea kayaking is in danger of being swallowed up by a "macho white water attitude with its over-emphasis on technique". Again, is any of this true? Does any of it represent a loss of freedom? Are people being compelled to learn to roll and to master those nasty white water and flatwater strokes? It is all very strange.
I believe (no data) that the truth is as follows: John Dowd and his fellow sea kayaking entrepreneurs/gurus of the 1980s, acting through TASK, the Trade Association for Sea Kayaking, did spawn their longed-for explosion of interest in paddlesports. And, for a while, the expanding interest was directed into sea kayaking. But now, the latest crop of new, easiest-path, "freedom"-seeking recruits has turned away from sea kayaks and sea kayaking and instead are buying Pungos, SOTs, SUPs, and are heading, without instruction, for the nearest pond, lake, river, beach.
There never were going to be a whole lot of folks interested enough in the discipline that sea kayaking--the most basic, stark form of marine boating--requires. And there never were going to be that many who would stick with open water, cold water, tidewater, choppy water, breezy paddling for 10,20,30 years--the number will fluctuate, but will always be small.
I don't know exactly what is troubling John Dowd about the state of sea kayaking today, but his concerns as he has stated them recently are so far wholly without supporting evidence, or inner logic.
Edited by Strange_Magic (08/11/12 06:11 AM)