Polar Bear Swim

Take the plunge at the 99th annual Polar Bear Swim

“The Polar Bear Swim is a free community event and a great way to dive into the New Year. This event is both exhilarating and entertaining," said Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon.

December 21 2018 –

There’s nothing like kicking off the New Year with a plunge into the icy waters of English Bay.

The 99th annual Polar Bear Swim takes place January 1 at 2:30pm in English Bay. Dress up as your favorite super-hero, compete in the Peter Pantages Memorial 100-yard race or just come out to watch the spectacle!

Last year, about 4,000 people swam (1,761 registered) in the 6 degree ocean waters. To ensure everyone stays safe, 15 Park Board lifeguards will be front and centre in rowboats, on paddleboards and watching the crowd from elevated chairs.

Free community event

“The Polar Bear Swim is a free community event and a great way to dive into the New Year. From simply braving the cold water with friends and family to the outrageous costumes that people wear, this event is both exhilarating and entertaining. Many people come to the swim every year and never actually take the plunge. They just want to soak up the amazing atmosphere,” said Park Board Chair Stuart Mackinnon.

The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim Club is one of the largest and oldest in the world. In 1920, Peter Pantages and nine other brave swimmers started their New Year in style by plunging into the chilly waters of English Bay. Since then the Polar Bear swim has grown into a much loved highlight of the holiday season.

Lisa Pantages to do 57th Polar Bear Swim

Peter’s granddaughter, Lisa Pantages, will be doing her 57th Polar Bear Swim this January 1st along with three generations of her family.

“I think the swim is the best way to get a fresh start to the year. The feeling of camaraderie and community amongst the swimmers is unmatched in any other event in Vancouver,” she said.

Those brave enough, are encouraged to register so the Park Board can measure the event’s popularity and enter participants into a prize draw. Swimmers can also pledge to attend and invite their friends via Facebook . Share photos from the swim on Twitter and Instagram with the hashtag #VanPolarBearSwim and two people will have a chance to win a prize packages including a one–month Flexipass to Park Board facilities including fitness centres and pools.

Polar Bear Swim tips

  • If you have a heart problem – be a spectator
  • Children must be accompanied by an adult at all times
  • Leave your dog at home
  • Do not drink – alcohol does not warm you up, it accelerates hypothermia
  • Do not stay in the water longer than 15 minutes. Body heat is lost 25 times faster in water than in air
  • Do not remove your clothing until swim time. The swim will be started by a flag and siren
  • If you compete in the 100-yard race, meet in the front line on the north side (Stanley Park side) of the enclosure
  • If you're one of the first three swimmers to touch the marker buoy by the lifeguard boat, give your name to the lifeguard
  • After you swim, pick up your commemorative button at the large polar bear or registration table.

Don’t forget to register if you plan to plunge and bring along a cash or food donations for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank. Donations will be collected onsite.