Floyd, you're assuming that the decline was natural. Maybe some drop was coming (or maybe not - if the manufacturers had developed and promoted light wind gear like they developed heavy wind gear who knows what would have happened?) but was it going to be a drop as big as the one we have experienced?
The sports that inspired the creation of windsurfing, dinghy sailing and surfing, have also boomed, yet neither has gone bust as badly as windsurfing. If windsurfing's drop was all part of a natural cycle, why was it so much worse than surfing or windsurfing?
Notably, surfing and dinghy sailing (in its most popular country) have both grown once more as they have moved towards gear that performs best in real-world, non-ideal conditions. This is, of course, what modern boards are doing......all I'm saying is why not take it further?
Other sports like sea kayaking have boomed on low-tech gear recently - there is an audience out there. Looking at sea kayak marketing, it seems that it's about simple family fun just like windsurfing used to be. They don't market people doing loops or surf or racing, and their sport is booming. Windsurfing pushes the areas that most people cannot do, and it's declined. More than a cooincidence, surely.
In all these cases, it seems that the boom started AFTER windsurfing declined. I can't find any evidence that these sports took people away from windsurfing. In fact their growth seems to indicate that there were still people out there, looking for something - and they saw what modern windsurfing had to offer, and turned away.
As someone who was working in the sport in the boomtime, I think there was a lot of marketing control over the sport. Influential people were openly laughing at people who sailed what they called "goatboats"; World Cup sailors were publicly heckled and abused when they sailed D2s; magazines said it was social death to sail anything that didn't sink.
We still see it today, when shops sell high-wind gear to beginners and people who tell them that they are going to sail in a light-wind location where longboards dominate for very good reason (we have FW gear with proven FW sailors and slalom gear with ex world team sailors too, but that gear rarely works well here).
If marketing doesn't work, why do we bother to try to market the sport by world cup events, pics of people looping etc? Why do other industries spend vast amounts on marketing if it fails?
I can't see why we can't applaud the industry for developing the gear we now have, AND blame them for harming what we did have. In fact maybe the high wind gear would have developed more if the industry had also pushed light wind gear, because the companies may have been bigger and more profitable and may have had more money for R & D. Note also that many of those who guided the sport early on admit that the high-wind push was a mistake. They were there, don't they know?
And there's no evidence that the performance of the gear has improved any more than it has in dinghy sailing, for instance. When the first Windsurfer came out, it was given the same racing handicap as an International Moth dinghy. Cottage-industry builders and amateurs have transformed the ply or GRP Moth into a full carbon hydrofoil. Ironically, it's similar in overall speed to the Formula boards, according to those who race good FWs and Moths against each week. In other words, the performance differential between the Moth and the board is very similar to the way it was 30+ years ago. Sure, the speed records have gone up, but that's not something that a significant section of sailing cares much about.
Surfboards seem to have progressed a lot less, but the sport has done very well since moving to longboards.
For some reason, those of us who argue for the promotion of light wind sailing AS WELL AS strong wind sailing are seen as attacking windsurfing and strong wind sailing. We are not - we're just trying to get a wider view of the sport and its attractions. We have never said that you and Steve shouldn't enjoy strong wind sailing - just that the sport should be more open minded and innovative.