From the fragmentary records that have survived from the early days it appears that the touring sport so brilliantly demonstrated by John MacGregor and the Royal Canoe Club was left mainly to individual enthusiasts in New Zealand while clubs contented themselves with short trips close to home, casual racing and base-camp holidays. Sailing sometimes proved more attractive than paddling; the Wakatere Canoe Club of Devonport was changed into a yacht club within a few years of its formation. Designs, too, reflected new trends. Prior to the Second World War the original clinker method of construction gave way to lighter and simpler methods. Later, the Rob Roy design was replaced by forms better suited to river work. Modern lath and canvas cruising kayaks are designed mainly for inland cruising and white water; sailing efficiency has been sacrificed.
Realisation of the new possibilities of the sport did not come in time to save club activity from dying out soon after the war. The revival dates from 1949–50, when two independent groups organised cruises down the Wanganui River, a long-neglected tourist attraction. The first group, Wanganui Boy Scouts, laid the foundations for regular combined scout Christmas cruises while the second group, 23 Aucklanders, mostly university students, followed up their trip by forming in 1950 the New Zealand Canoeing Association with the aim of reviving the sport on the widest possible basis by promoting the formation of branches throughout the country. The NZCA was at first run conjointly with Auckland Canoe Club and Auckland University Canoe Club, D. J. Mason being the foundation president of all three bodies. Folding kayaks became the standard craft for the new movement, which featured long distance and white water cruising. Inflatable rubber dinghies purchased cheaply from war surplus stock enabled large numbers of beginners to get a taste of the sport in safety and at little expense; they also proved useful for pioneering and escorting inexperienced canoeists in remote areas.
As a result of the sport's growing popularity, some half-dozen clubs had been firmly established by 1958, when the Association became incorporated. Combined championships were first organised by the Wanganui Club in 1955, and became an annual event. In 1959, following an unsuccessful bid to secure the affiliation of the new clubs, the officers stood down and the NZCA, hitherto essentially an association of individuals functioning as an extended club similar to the Canoe Camping Club in Britain, was reconstituted as a pure federation. The new constitution came into force in 1961. The NZCA's status as the national governing body for competitive canoeing is recognised by the International Canoe
Federation, to which it is affiliated. Its other activities are conducted by officers and committees distributed among different clubs and meeting formally, together with club delegates, only at annual conferences. The present membership (1964) is 11 clubs with about 300 individual members, all in the North Island.
D. J. Mason formed a new body, New Zealand Lone Canoeists Association (now N.Z. Canoe Touring and Wild Water Club), with the aim of continuing the NZCA's former policy. In 1963 another group of Aucklanders formed the New Zealand Kayak Group with similar general aims but with the more specific object of using folding kayaks, the other club having been depending to a great extent on rubber dinghies. Neither club is yet affiliated to the NZCA. The organised sport has to date made little progress in the South Island.
by Alexander Heslin Carr, M.A., B.SC., Secretary, New Zealand Canoeing Association, Wellington.