Delta’s annual New Year Polar Bear Swim celebrated its 40th year on January 1st, 2020, at Boundary Bay Regional Park’s Centennial Beach in Tsawwassen.
2021 EVENT CANCELLED
Due to the current state of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2021 Polar Bear Swim at Boundary Bay Park has been cancelled. Hopefully the event takes place in 2022.
Polar Bear Swim at Boundary Bay Park
In years when there isn’t a pandemic, the Delta Polar Bear Swim takes place at Boundary Bay’s Centennial Beach on New Year’s Day. Registration usually begins at noon and the swimming starts at 1 o’clock. About 5 minutes later it’s all over, except for the awarding of prizes.
Boundary Bay Regional Park is located in the 500 block of Boundary Bay Road in Tsawwassen, which makes it just 10 km or a 15-minute drive from the BC Ferries‘ Terminal.
About the Delta Polar Bear Swim
The Polar Bear Swim at Centennial Beach is one of about half a dozen similar events taking place in the Lower Mainland on January 1st each year. Other outdoor New Year’s Day swims take place in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Port Moody, White Rock and Fort Langley.
The largest and most famous polar bear swim is the one at English Bay in Vancouver. The event in Delta is much smaller, but still pretty big. A couple of thousand people usually turn out to watch at Centennial Beach each year and over 100 people take the plunge.
At the Delta Polar Bear Swim people typically arrive early to register, hang out with friends and family, admire other people’s costumes and prepare for what’s ahead. There is a bit of music and food trucks are usually on site for folk wanting a snack, coffee or hot chocolate.
At about 12:45 pm the Centennial Beach crowd congregates along the water’s edge. There’s a designated area for the swimming participants in the middle and onlookers gather along the sides. Of the over a hundred people planning to swim, some are in costume, but most are in just their swimsuits.
Ten seconds before 1:00 pm the crowd counts down from 10 to 1 after which the mass of swimmers runs toward the water. In the resulting chaos most years, friends and family record the event with their phones and cameras, people splash and scream, teeth chatter and memories are made.
About five minutes after the swimming begins everyone is back out of the water. Another five minutes later, organizers are calling prize winners to the stage to receive their recognition. Prizes are usually awarded for various categories including “oldest participant”, “person travelling from the farthest distance” and “best swimmers”.
Tips and Advice
Below is some advice and extra information to help you make the most out of your Polar Bear Swim at Delta’s Boundary Bay Regional Park.
TIP #1: If you’re planning to swim, wear something on your feet – your tootsies will thank you. The water is cold and the beach is a bit rocky.
TIP #2: There is a lot of parking available at the beach. Arrive at least half an hour before splash time though to get a space. Otherwise you may have to walk a ways.
TIP #3: Plan to arrive even earlier than 30 minutes beforehand if you can. There’s nothing more frustrating than arriving late because of traffic (which there will be) and missing the start of the swim.
TIP #4: Don’t forget to take the obvious – swimsuit, towel, warm change of clothes, camera, optional costume, etc.. A thermos of hot chocolate or coffee can also be a good idea.
About the Beach and the Park
Boundary Bay Regional Park is a flat wide-open area in the South Delta community of Tsawwassen. Tsawwassen is on a bit of a peninsula with the BC Ferry Terminal on the west side, the park on the east side and Point Roberts (in the United States) at the bottom in the south.
At the park there are walking trails, horseback riding trails and a huge sandy beach. At Centennial Beach there is a concession stand, public washrooms and a large children’s play area. There are also picnic shelters that are available on a first-come, first-served basis if nobody has already reserved them in advance.
Dogs are permitted in certain areas at the park, but only on leash.
For further details about the New Year’s Day event at Crescent Beach click Delta Polar Bear Swim.
For more information about the park click Boundary Bay Regional Park.
For a list of other January 1st swims in the Lower Mainland click Metro Vancouver Polar Bear Swims.
See New Year’s Eve Celebrations for information about events in Vancouver on December 31st (so the night before).