The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim is a free family-friendly annual event where thousands of people swim in the chilly waters at English Bay in Vancouver on January 1 to celebrate the new year!
This event has been a tradition in Vancouver since 1920. Check out it's History.
This event is really fun! For some it is a big party carrying over from their New Year's Eve party! Many people dress up in costumes for the swim.
Thousands of people come out to watch and support the swimmers, so you don't even have to swim!
For 2024, the actual swim takes place at 2:30pm. The event runs from 12pm to 4pm.
The water is usually chilly, so not everyone swims. Thousands of people come just to watch the spectacle!
For the swimmers, there will be warming huts.
There will be live music.
There will also be some food trucks if you get hungry.
Finally, there is a 100 yard swim race where the first 3 finishers receive a trophy. This is called the Peter Pantage Memorial 100-yard Swim Race in memory of the founder of this event (see plaque below).
Registration is free and can be done online (preferably) and also usually at the event.
If you register you will get an online participation certificate and it helps the event organizers get a count of the swimmers!
There is a plaque related to the Polar Bear Swim History on the English Bay Bath House.
The plaque says:
City of Vancouver
Polar Bear Club
When Peter Pantages arrived in Vancouver in 1917 he started the practice of taking a daily ocean swim. In 1920 he founded the Polar Bear Club and inaugurated its now famous New Year's Day swim at English Bay. He served as president until his final dip in 1971.
2020 was the 100th annual Polar Bear swim in English Bay! It was the largest in years!
This event was moved online in 2021 and 2022 because of the Covid pandemic. It returned in 2023 and hopefully will be on every year for another 100 years!
Here are the frequently asked questions about the Vancouver Polar Bear Swim.
The Vancouver Polar Bear swim takes place at 2:30pm on January 1, 2024.
Peter Pantages, of the vaudeville theatre family, started the Vancouver Polar Bear swim in 1920. Check out the History.
The Polar Bear swim takes place annually on January 1 at 2:30pm. The event takes place from 12pm to 4pm. Registration starts at 12:30pm
The water temperature has varied from 4.5 degrees to 9 degrees celsius over the last 50 years.
Personally, we think the outside air temperature is more important because you aren't in the water long, but are outside for while. We like it when it is 10 degrees and above!
If you register for the Polar Bear Swim you will receive a digital participation certificate. Additionally, it helps organizers to know how many people actually took the dip!
The official hashtag for the Vancouver Polar Bear swim is: #VanPolarBearSwim
There aren't any road closures, but parking on the main streets near English Bay will be restricted. See Road Closures for details.
There isn't much parking available right at English Bay Beach but there is parking nearby.
There are some parking lots on Beach Avenue near Sunset Beach and on Denman Street.
Additionally, there are a number of parking lots in Stanley Park. More info about Parking in Stanley Park: Parking in Stanley Park.