When the Hokitika Canoe Club was formed on 25 August 1886, its first commodore was F.E. Clark who, 20 years earlier, had constructed the first Rob Roy style canoe seen in the Antipodes, from plans sent to his father in Tasmania by a former schoolmate, John MacGregor. In 1865, after John MacGregor returned to England from a trip to North America, where he had seen bark canoes and skin kayaks, John designed and had built a clinker style, wooden kayak, some 14.5 feet long and weighing 90 pounds, which he named Rob Roy.

Several books by MacGregor on his kayak adventures in Europe and Africa, plus lecture tours in Britain and overseas, led to a growing level of interest in river and sea kayaking worldwide including New Zealand.