In 1888 the first New Zealand rowing championships were held in fours and single sculls only and at different regattas. Two events, the pairs and double sculls, were added in the following season. These continued to be contested at different regattas until 1891, when they were all held at Wanganui. Up until 1927, probably owing to the cost of eight-oared boats, eight-oared rowing was confined to local regattas and to university clubs. In March 1928 the first inter-provincial championship eights race was held in Wellington for the Hallyburton Johnston Cup. A New Zealand championship eights event was added to the annual championship venue in 1937.
R. B. Smith, of Auckland, who won 10 New Zealand championship titles, has the finest record in this respect. Before the Second World War he won the single sculls on six occasions and the double sculls three times; while in 1946 he stroked an Auckland Rowing Club crew to win the New Zealand eights title. Don Rowlands is another who has built up an enviable record in New Zealand rowing. He has nine New Zealand championship titles, in the single and double sculls and eights, to his credit. In 1954 he added the Empire Games Gold Medal for single sculls to his achievements.