Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
VIA store 300x100
Join our Newsletter

Vancouver's 2021 New Year's Day Polar Bear Swim in English Bay cancelled

Instead, take part in your own frigid Polar Bear Dip at home as part of an online event on January 1.
Lisa Pantages and swim regular George Pajari seen getting ready to take a quick dip in English Bay Dec. 17, 2109 ahead of the 100th Vancouver Polar Bear Swim, which took place on Jan. 1, 2020. The 2021 Vancouver Polar Bear Swim has been cancelled, however the Park Board is organizing a virtual Polar Bear Dip for participants to do in their own homes. File photo by Dan Toulgoet

For thrill seekers keen to start 2021 with a frigid dip in open waters, the City of Vancouver is throwing cold water on the idea.

Rather than host the 101st annual Polar Bear Swim in person at English Bay, Vancouver's traditional Polar Bear Swim is going to be online this year.

"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," explain organizers at the Vancouver Park Board.

Much like the usual public beach event, the Polar Bear Swim is taking registration for participants, who will receive a commemorative certificate after the event. As incentive, the Park Board is offering anyone who e-mails a photo or video to showing their participation a commemorative button, too.

The Vancouver Polar Bear Swim got its start 101 years ago by a local named Peter Pantages.

So confident you could swim in English Bay any and every day of the year, Pantages convinced five or so friends to jump in with him on the first day of 1920. Pantages ended up started the Polar Bear Swim Club, and a New Year's Day tradition was born. 

19150953_polar-bear-swim-2016-minPolar Bear Swim in Vancouver, 2016 Photo: phase5pdx/Flickr

Various members of the Pantages family, including Pete's children and grandchildren, have continued to participate in the annual chilly plunge, and this year will be no different - well, except that 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," said Pantages. "For my 59th swim (all but one in English Bay), I will be in my fish pond, which is a pleasant 6°C."

Lisa Pantages added: "This year, let’s have fun in the safety of our own homes, gardens, driveways or bathtubs. Polar Bears are known for their creativity. Have fun, and earn your commemorative button a new way."

“While we are deeply disappointed that our great New Year’s tradition of jumping into the frigid waters of English Bay will not be taking place in 2021, we know this is the right decision to make for the health and safety of swimmers, spectators, and staff,” said Vancouver Park Board Chair Camil Dumont.

Online registration for the Polar Bear Dip opens December 21, while your "Dip" itself will happen January 1, 2021 at 2:30 p.m. Pics or it didn't happen!

2021 Polar Bear Swim merchandise, such as face masks, t-shirts, and toques, is available for purchase online.