In Vancouver for New Year’s Day and looking for something to do? Then put on that bathing suit underneath your winter coat, and head down to English Bay for the Annual Polar Bear Swim.
This event has seen exponential growth through the last few years, not only in spectators but also in brave “Polar Bears”, who face the cold outside temperatures to join in on the fun.
A Vancouver tradition since 1920, the Polar Bear Swim Club was founded in Vancouver by Peter Pantages, and has since become one of the largest in the world. The plunge on January 1st began with 10 heroic swimmers, but has had as many as 2550 official participants. These days the event is sponsored by radio stations and local businesses, which I’m sure would make Peter proud.
Although the main focus is the Peter Pantages Memorial 100-yard swim race, most Polar Bears who attend will only go in for a soul-cleansing dip. The crowd has some very distinct characters, and costumes are encouraged. If you’re not ready to dive head-first into the nearly freezing water, come down anyway to cheer on the Polar Bears. It is guaranteed entertainment. I have to admit I am proud to have faced my fear of cold water to officially become a member of the Polar Bear group.