These types of soft diatribes are encouraged by AK mag as I believe that's what the readership desires to read - unsubstantiated and subjective editorial from founding fathers and other industry names. I do think there needs to be a place for these opinions and indeed, this type of journalism. Dowds has been involved with sea kayaking from a seamanship-centric perspective long enough that one assumes some merit is due.
I tend to form my opinions by listening to what the retailers and tripping providers observe, as they keep a close eye on trends and know the marketplace, etc. From what I gather, the issues are multifaceted and there are no simple answers to why there are surges and declines. Certainly, selling rudderless, skegged performance sea kayaks with attending hard skills development programs isn't the brunt of buisness, and never has been. Comfortable touring-class boats and freedom-found excursions are the main forte with a growing interest, as noted, in SOTs, etc., which I don't equate the growth thereof because true sea kayaking and seamanship is being presented as overly skill-based.
Dowd's previous rant against germaine skills-based schemes like BCU and ACA was similarly uninformed in my opinion, but again, it was an op-ed piece that had merit if it gets folks talking and looking at the sport with fresh keeness so we can stay earnest in the fight to maintain currnt freedoms.
I have a lot of respect for John. I don't always agree with him but will listen and consider is points. I may strain to see the validity at times of what he is sying but when I place myself in to his perspective and bias, I understand why he says what he does.
I've had a family health crisis in my family for three years now that is winding down tragically so have not been keeping up with some of the things you take note of but anyone I have talked to in my periphery understands the inherent dangers of the ocean and other wide bodies of open water and the need to take courses, get the right gear and use a lot of judgement and wisdom. Those that don't never will. Excuse my poor edits here, I am exhausted these days.