Vancouver's annual Polar Bear swim to take place in bathtubs this year

Dec 16 2020, 6:31 pm

Vancouver’s annual Polar Bear Swim will go ahead on January 1, but with an adjustment for physical distancing and COVID-19 protocols.

In a release, the Vancouver Park Board said the event will be held virtually. For those wondering how exactly this will work, the park board said that on New Year’s Day at 2:30 pm, “participants are encouraged to take a dip in a bathtub or kiddie pool and, if brave enough, adjust the temperature to 7°C / 44.6 °F – the average water temperature of previous Polar Bear Swims.”

Vancouver’s Polar Bear swim tradition began in 1920, when Peter Pantages and nine other swimmers welcomed the new year by plunging into the waters of English Bay. The group soon became known as the Vancouver Polar Bear Club.

Since then, the swim has grown into a highlight of the holiday season in the city.

And this year, Peter’s granddaughter, Lisa Pantages, will be doing her 59th swim at home.

“Polar Bears know that the annual swim is all about community and tradition, but for 2021 we need to adapt to keep our community safe,” she stated in a release. “For my 59th swim (all but one in English Bay), I will be in my fish pond, which is a pleasant 6°C. This year, let’s have fun in the safety of our own homes, gardens, driveways or bathtubs.”

Registration for the Polar Bear Dip opens online, beginning December 21.

Registered swimmers will receive a commemorative certificate after the event and the park board said that anyone who emails a photo or video  of themselves showing their participation will receive a commemorative button.

Eric ZimmerEric Zimmer

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