It’s been a year of many things but cancellations are probably one of the most notable outcomes. And on that note, we thought we’d talk about the history of Vancouver’s Polar Bear Swim. Which actually isn’t being cancelled this year, instead it’s been turned into an at-home, socially distanced, and safe event.

polar bear swim vancouver

But with that in mind, we will miss the original format of the event which has been happening since 1920! It is believed to have been started by Peter Pantages (above).

Pantages was a Greek immigrant whose family was already deeply embedded in Vancouver. He opened the Peter Pan Café back, and it became an institution on the Granville Strip for decades.

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polar bear swim

Clearly, Pantages legacy has lived on as each year more and more swimmers have joined in this very chilly event. If you’re wondering, it started with about 5-10 swimmers in 1920 and has gone up to 2500 swimmers in 2014. And who knows, maybe this year’s at-home event will break a record.

polar bear swim

Although the traditional swim has become much more of a spectators event. After all, jumping in English Bay after a night of celebrating isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. But we will say it is quite refreshing.

So if you’re looking to do something new in 2021, consider joining the at-home Polar Bear Swim. After all, you have nothing to lose and we’re sure no matter how you’re feeling on January 1st, a cold dip will wake your right up.

Polar Bear Swim Vancouver 2021

When: January 1, 2020
Where: At home