To the general public of New Zealand, canoeing is associated with summer afternoon recreation on sheltered beaches and boating lakes. But this activity is an insignificant part of the organised sport. In New Zealand, as in Europe, the sport is made up of three broad classes of activity comparable to tramping, skiing, and rowing. These are:
Touring, or cruising. As a rule all necessary camping equipment, including food, is carried in the canoes, although frequently – especially on short weekends – a chartered bus carries equipment between campsites before finally taking the whole party home. Some clubs feature summer touring holidays of two to three weeks with itineraries totalling several hundred miles of paddling on distant rivers and lakes. Regions such as the Rotorua and Southern Lakes, which offer both exciting rivers and scenic beauty, are popular.
White water sport. White water canoes, on account of their light, resilient construction and responsiveness in skilled hands, can ride fast, boisterous, and rocky torrents in which heavier vessels would founder or break up. New Zealand's geologically immature rivers offer abundant opportunities for this exhilarating sport which, as it calls for skill and general fitness rather than strength, attracts women as well as men. Hydro-electric development has unfortunately deprived canoeists in recent years of some of the country's finest rivers and threatens many of the remaining ones.
National white water championships featuring slalom and torrent racing are organised by the New Zealand Canoeing Association. In slalom a course involving technically difficult manoeuvres both with and against the current is marked out by suspending poles over a short stretch of rough water.
Racing. Flat water and river races are popular in some clubs, notably Palmerston North Canoe Club. The New Zealand Canoeing Association organises annual national championships, with classes for cruising canoes as well as the regular K1 and K2 racing kayaks, slender craft resembling rowing skiffs in form and speed and conforming to the International Canoe Federation's Racing Rules. I.C.F. Canadian (Indian-type) racing canoes have not yet been adopted here, although they are occasionally used for cruising. No interest has been shown in the specialised sailing canoes used overseas for international class racing.
A New Zealand racing canoeist, T. Dooney (Palmerston North), competed in the Australian National Championships in 1960, and two others have since competed in Australian regattas, but none achieved better than minor placings.