My beef with Dowd's reasoning and logic goes back to his disdain, often and loudly expressed in the 1980s, for wearing any thermal protection when paddling on lethally cold water. His preferred technique was to sit on his wetsuit and then, in the event of a capsize, fire off a few flares and attempt to put the wetsuit on in the water. Brilliant.
I read the AKmag commentary and, much to my surprise, a bit of what he said struck a minor chord with me. In the Chesapeake Bay Area where I paddle, I've noticed what appears to be a confusing mish-mash of advice on paddling strokes. For example, the forward stroke is often taught in a "racing" form, with a high-angle paddle paddle position very close to the boat, high upper hand position, and removal of the blade at the hip. It's about as far from the touring stroke that I use as one can get, and it makes no sense to me as a sea kayaker.
The same thing goes for sculling, which I consider to be an excellent exercise for improving blade control, a great technique for stabilizing the boat, and a fundamental building block for confident edging in forward and reverse sweeps. A low-angle scull is also a very secure and stable way to move the boat sideways in rough conditions.
Warren Williamson, a man whose kayaking skills I greatly admire has noted the advantage of being able to "scull up" from an inverted position, pause to collect one's wits, and then roll up from the side sculling position. I took what he said to heart and
feel that the hours I've devoted to sculling have paid very good dividends indeed. This past winter, a very highly ranked ACA instructor critiqued my use of a low angle scull during a winter pool session. His point was that "proper" sculling technique used as vertical a paddle position as possible.
If I had to place my money on the table, I'd think it wise to defer to the Inuit, the people who invented sea kayaking. What do they know? What can we learn from them? Plenty. The only thing that stands in the way is Western hubris, our smug cultural conviction that in a few decades(or less)we can improve on thousands of years of real-world R&D. When it comes to open-water technique, I'll take their word on what works best any day of the week.