The Polar Bear Swim has been making brave Vancouverites touch the face of hypothermia for the last 103 years, and 2024 is going to make it 104.
The annual cold water plunge sees participants start the new year off right with a quick dip in English Bay—or, for the more athletic types, a 100-yard dash to see who can touch the marker buoy first.
“Vancouver’s Polar Bear Swim is one of the largest and oldest in the world, and we’re delighted to host such an important and fun community tradition,” says Vancouver Park Board chair Brennan Bastyovanszky in a statement. “It’s always amazing to see so many people come together to start the year off with an exciting challenge.”
What started out as Peter Pantages and nine other swimmers throwing themselves into English Bay in 1920 (in presumably old-timey swimsuits, into water with presumably fewer e-coli outbreaks) has grown into a beloved annual tradition with associated amenities.
Changing rooms, warming tents, and coat check will all be on site. Also scheduled is family-friendly entertainment, including food trucks and live music.
The event starts at 12pm on January 1, while the official swim takes place at 2:30pm. Coat check space is limited, so swimmers are advised to pack light and be ready to get straight in the water.
Pantages’ granddaughter, Lisa Pantages, will be joining the masses for her 62nd swim, and remains delighted by her grandfather’s legacy.
“I’m so excited for another year of celebrating at English Bay, and to experience the energy of everyone who participates,” she says in a press release. “Whether it’s your first Polar Bear Swim or your 50th, everyone goes in with the same spirit, and comes out with a fresh outlook on the new year.”
For what it’s worth, cold water swims can have positive effects on your physical and mental wellbeing. Just remember to wrap up afterwards. And hey—it’s way cheaper than a trip to the spa.
Vancouver Polar Bear Swim 2024
When: January 1, 2024, 12pm to 4pm
Where: English Bay