Are you taking the plunge this year? The #VanPolarBearSwim will not be celebrated at English Bay this year, but rather online. Keep the tradition alive and join for a Digital Dip.
To celebrate this Vancouver tradition, Janet Leduc has put together a brief history about how the Polar Bear Swim began.
On January 1, 1920. Peter Pantages talked some of his buddies into plunging into the frigid waters of English Bay and inaugurated the Polar Bear Swim. In 2017 the City of Vancouver named the lane between Davie and Burnaby Streets “Pantages Lane” in Peter’s honour.
In the early days members of the Royal Society took a swim on both Christmas and New Year’s Day.
Photo: Royal Life Saving Society members are about to go for a dip on Christmas Day, 1924
The New Year’s swim endured and became the popular Polar Bear Swim. The swim grew from 10 swimmers the first year to 200 in the 1950s and 1960s and today the swimmers number in the thousands. Pantages led the annual swim every year until his death in 1971.
In 1928 Sixteen year old Ivy Granstrom first participated in the Polar Bear swim. By the I990s the Queen of the Polar Bears and Member of the Order of Canada was regularly leading the swimmers into the water. Ivy took her final plunge in 2004 four months prior to her death.
The English Bay Polar Bear swim, the first in Canada, is now one of the largest in the world.
Thanks to Janet Leduc for the words, and the City of Vancouver Archives for the photos.