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Vancouver Park Board’s Polar Bear Swim back for 96th year on January 1st

December 28 2015

Polar Bear Swim

Take the plunge and participate in the annual craziness of the Polar Bear Swim in English Bay on New Year’s Day!

Since 1920, thousands of hardy ‘Polar Bears’ —many wearing fun costumes ranging from reindeer and penguins to movie characters—start their New Year in style by plunging into the chilly waters of English Bay. The free community event takes place at 2:30pm on January 1st.

Great tradition

“The Polar Bear Swim is a great Vancouver tradition. Even if you’re not swimming, it’s fun to watch the spectacle," said Vancouver Park Board Chair Sarah Kirby-Yung. “We encourage spectators and swimmers to bring non-perishable food items or a cash donation for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank.”

Help the food bank

Last year, the Park Board, with assistance from the Cactus Club Café, raised 130 kilograms (287 pounds) of food and $1,330 for the food bank.


Started by Peter Pantages and now hosted by the Vancouver Park Board, the swim has remained largely unchanged over nearly a century. Swimmers are also invited to compete in the Peter Pantages Memorial 100 yard swim race. Be prepared for cold water! Water temperature has been recorded as low as 3 Celsius (38 degrees Fahrenheit).

All participants are encouraged to download the registration form, complete it, and bring it to the swim to avoid lineups and be eligible for the many draw prizes awarded in the days that follow.

Polar Bear Swim tips

  • Registration begins at 12:30pm at the English Bay Bathhouse
  • Limited edition commemorative t-shirts will be on sale
  • First three swimmers to reach the marker buoy in the 100 yard race will receive trophies
  • Commemorative Polar Bear Swim Club buttons will be available to bathers after the swim (limited quantity)
  • Be Water Smart – know your limits, swim sober, and avoid diving into the water
  • Swimmers should have supplies to stay warm: a towel, blanket, change of clothes, and warm outerwear
  • Children must be accompanied by an adult
  • Dog owners are asked to leave their pets at home

Learn more and register