The Port Moody Penguin Plunge at Rocky Point Park is one of Vancouver’s various polar bear swims that take place on January 1st to celebrate the New Year.
Other similar Lower Mainland events usually happen at English Bay, North Vancouver’s Deep Cove and Delta’s Boundary Bay. There is also a New Year’s Day swim in Fort Langley most years, and in 2020 White Rock celebrated its event’s 50th year.
For details about all of these crazy New Year’s Day events click Metro Vancouver Polar Bear Swims. For information about just the icy dip in Port Moody, see below.
Port Moody Penguin Plunge
In years when there isn’t a pandemic, the Port Moody Penguin Plunge happens at Rocky Point Park in the boat launch area by the pier at 2800 Esplanade Avenue. In 2020 it took place on Wednesday, January 1st. Registration for the event started at 11:30 in the morning and the swim was at 1:00 pm. The event was cancelled in 2021 due to COVID-19, but hopefully it returns in 2022.
The Penguin Plunge is a fundraiser for the Pleasantside Community Association which is a non-profit group that does volunteer work, advocates for the neighbourhood and supports community programs.
Participants in the Port Moody Penguin Plunge are asked to pay about $5 per swimmer (or $10 for a family of four) with proceeds benefiting programs at Old Orchard Hall including Play Pals (a parent and baby program), a can-can dance group and seniors badminton.
What to Expect
At the Port Moody Penguin Plunge you can expect a couple of hundred hardy yet crazy swimming participants as well as a thousand or more onlookers and supporters most years.
In years when the event takes place, people start to arrive on New Year’s Day as early as 11:30 am, which is when registration typically opens for the event. Many participants get dressed up. Costumes range from simple Santa hats to wigs, onesie pajamas to full-body superhero suits. Many folk wear swimsuits under their clothes until just before swim time at 1:00 pm, although many also just swim in their clothes and costumes.
Swimmers usually gather in the boat launch area at the edge of Burrard Inlet. Non-swimming attendees stand behind them or line the pier and get ready to watch, take photos and cheer.
During the event there are snacks and hot drinks available for purchase on site. There is also usually music and a bonfire.
At 12:59:50 pm the countdown begins. 10, 9, 8, … 2, 1, 0 and then, at precisely 1:00 pm, the crowd dashes for the water and the air fills with screams, laughter, splashing and the clicks of cameras. Most people jump in and then straight back out again. A small number stay in the water for a while and splash around.
Within about 10 minutes of the start of the swim pretty much everyone is back on dry land. All are smiling, shivering and trying desperately to warm back up.
About the Penguin Plunge
The Port Moody Penguin Plunge is an annual tradition that has been taking place for over a dozen years. It happens every year, except for in 2016 when it had to be cancelled at the last minute after a boat ran aground right at the boat launch and leaked fuel into the water. The event didn’t take place in 2021 either because of the coronavirus pandemic.
In years when the event does happen, local firefighters and other volunteers help set up and keep people safe (which some years can mean shoveling snow and putting salt on icy patches of ground before the crowds arrive).
As many as a couple of hundred people actually go in the water each year, and up to one or even two thousand people come out to watch.
The Port Moody Penguin Plunge is a fun community event that’s worth checking out, either for the swim or just to watch.
Tips and Advice
Below are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most out of your Penguin Plunge experience.
TIP #1: For non-swimming onlookers, the best place to watch is along the pier. You have to arrive early though to get a good spot.
TIP #2: Arrive early – even before the start of registration at 11:30 am – if you want to find parking close to the venue (and so not have to walk a long ways when you’re freezing after your swim).
TIP #3: The boat launch is concrete and not the best surface for running on in bare feet. Consequently, most people wear shoes or some kind of footwear to protect their feet when running into the water.
TIP #4: Don’t forget your camera (or to make sure your friends and family take theirs and with sufficiently-charged batteries).
TIP #5: If you are a swimmer and have friends or family on dry land holding your towel and clothes, plan in advance where you’ll meet them as soon as you get out. With up to a couple of hundred swimmers and hundreds of friends and family supporters, the last thing you want when you’re freezing cold is to have to spend 5 to 10 minutes looking for your towel.
TIP #6: Half a dozen penguin plunges and polar bear swims take place across the Lower Mainland each year. To find one close to your part of town click Metro Vancouver Polar Bear Swims.
See the City of Port Moody website for more information about the event.
Other articles that might be of interest include the following:
- Vancouver’s January Calendar
- New Year’s Eve in Vancouver
- English Bay Polar Bear Swim
- Vancouver’s Best Beaches
- Vancouver Winter Activities
- Best Christmas Activities (some of which continue into January)