ROWING began in BC in 1859 with navy races held in VICTORIA. The first rowing club was formed in Victoria in 1865, followed by the rowing-oriented James Bay Athletic Association in 1882, the Vancouver Boating Club in 1886 and the Burrard Inlet Rowing Club in 1890. Ned Hanlan, the accomplished rowing champion from eastern Canada, visited Victoria in 1884 and put on a well-attended exhibition. The North Pacific Association of Amateur Oarsmen, a body that joined the BC clubs with others in the Pacific Northwest, began in 1891 and held its first regatta in Vancouver the next year. Bob JOHNSTON dominated BC rowing in the 1890s, winning the 1892 Pacific Coast Amateur Sculling Championship, the BC Amateur Championship from 1891 to 1894 and twice defeating the US national champion. In 1898 he was involved in the most significant event in early BC rowing: he challenged and narrowly lost to World Professional Champion Jake Gaudaur Sr in a race in Burrard Inlet. NELSON hosted a rematch, also won by Gaudaur, in 1900. In 1899 the Vancouver Boating Club and Burrard Inlet Club amalgamated to form the VANCOUVER ROWING CLUB. The sport spread throughout the province: in 1906 a regatta took place as PRINCE RUPERT's first sporting event, and clubs in Nelson, KELOWNA and PENTICTON joined the NPAAO the same year. The VRC coxless 4 of Colin Finlayson, Archie Black, George MacKay and William Wood brought home BC's first Olympic rowing medal, a silver from Paris in 1924. Johnston coached Ned PRATT and Noel de Mille to BC's second medal, a bronze in the double sculls at the 1932 Olympics.

Frank READ started volunteering as the coach at UBC in 1949 and he went on to turn rowing into one of the most successful sports in BC and in Canada. His UBC/VRC eight of Glen Smith, Mike Harris, Tom Toynbee, Doug McDonald, Laurie West, Herman Kovits, Ken Drummond, Bob Wilson and coxswain Ray Sierpina won the gold medal on the Vedder Canal at the 1954 BRITISH EMPIRE AND COMMONWEALTH GAMES in Vancouver. The next year, Read's eight upset the dominant Russians to finish 2nd at the Henley Royal Regatta. At the 1956 Olympics, his coxless four of Don Arnold, Walter d'Hondt, Lorne Loomer and Archie McKinnon achieved gold and his eight of West, McDonald, William McKerlich, Wayne Pretty, David Helliwell, Bob Wilson, Dick McClure, Philip Kueber and cox Carl Ogawa won the silver. The 1958 British Empire Games yielded another gold in the eight and 2 silvers in the straight four and coxed four. In the 1960 Olympics, Arnold, d'Hondt, McKerlich, Nelson Kuhn, Glen Mervyn, McKinnon, John Lecky (grandson of H.R. MacMILLAN), cox Tom Biln and future BC Liberal leader and federal cabinet minister David ANDERSON won a second Olympic silver in the eight.

After Read retired, a completely new eight coached by West won the 1963 Pan Am Games and George HUNGERFORD combined with future Canadian Olympic Association President Roger Jackson to win the coxless pair gold at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. UBC/VRC teams won various silvers and bronzes at the Pan Am and British Empire Games of the late 1950s and through the 1960s, but in 1971 national rowing teams replaced club teams in international competition. As members of national teams, VRC rowers and other British Columbians continued to win medals at the Pan Am Games, World Championships and Commonwealth Championships. In Victoria, rowing had lost popularity ever since the James Bay Athletic Association fizzled out in the 1940s, but Lief Gotfredson turned the sport around by reorganizing the Victoria City Rowing Club, later taken over by national team coach Al Morrow. The club's first major triumph was a gold medal by the Bruce Ford-Patrick Walter pair at the 1979 Pan Ams.

At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, BC's Dean Crawford, Grant Main, Kevin Neufeld, Pat Turner, Paul Steele and Blair Horne struck gold in the eight, Marilyn Campbell in the women's quad and Tricia SMITH in the pair earned silver, and the men's quad featuring Ford and Phil Monckton brought home bronze. Ontario medallists Barb Armbrust and Silken LAUMANN were so impressed with the training of the BC Olympians that they moved to Victoria after the Games. Ford, Walter, Main, Neufeld, Smith and Andrea Schreiner were all gold medallists at the 1986 Commonwealth Championships and Kirsten Barnes took gold in the pair at the1987 Pan Ams. The same year, lightweight doubles rower Janice Mason of Victoria won Canada's first women's rowing world-championship gold with Ontario partner Heather Hattin.

At both the 1991 World Championships and 1992 Olympics, Barnes, Jessica Monroe and Brenda Taylor won gold in the four and the eight, and Kathleen HEDDLE won gold in the pair and the eight. Victoria's Kelly Mahon also won gold in the 1991 eight. Laumann achieved world championship single sculls gold in 1991 and became a national hero the next year for winning Olympic bronze only 2 months after sustaining a career-threatening leg injury. BC's Megan Delehanty and men Derek PORTER, Mike Forgeron, Darren Barber and Michael Rascher also won golds in the eight. Porter also became the single sculls world champion in 1993. In lightweight competition, Gavin Hassett of Victoria won a world championship gold medal with Canada's eight in 1994.

At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Heddle and her pair partner Marnie McBEAN won again to become the first Canadians ever to win 3 Olympic golds; Laumann (single), Porter (single), Hassett (lightweight straight four) and Monroe and Theresa Luke (eight) took silvers; and Heddle also earned a bronze in the quad. Commonwealth champions include Heddle (pair–1994); Lindsey Turner, Sandi Brouk and Samara Walbohm (lightweight four–1994); and Luke, Mahon, Julie Jesperson, Jennifer Browett, Anna Van der Camp and Rachel Starr (eight–1994).

In Pan Am Games competition, Jesperson won gold (quad) and silver (pair) in 1991 and Luke (coxless pair), Browett (double sculls) and Porter (single sculls) won gold in 1999. Also in 1999, 1956 Olympic silver medallist Dick McClure joined early VRC builders Nelles Stacey, Reggie Woodward and Read in the BC SPORTS HALL OF FAME for his 2½ decades of coaching at the world class Burnaby Lake Rowing Club.