The White Rock Polar Bear Plunge is one of several icy New Year’s Day Polar Bear Swims that take place in Metro Vancouver on January 1st each year.
In 2020 registration for the White Rock event started by the pier at 10:30 am on Wednesday, January 1st, and participants took the plunge at noon. The same will likely take place again next time the event happens. However, the 2021 event took place in a virtual format due to COVID-19.
Other similar dips in the ocean usually take place at English Bay in Vancouver and at Deep Cove on the North Shore, among other places. For details about these and other January 1st events click Lower Mainland New Year’s Swims. For information about the event in White Rock, see below.
Polar Bear Plunge in White Rock
In years when the event takes place, crowds gather to watch hundreds of brave souls in swimsuits and funny costumes celebrate the New Year by going for a first-day-of-the-year swim in the ocean.
The White Rock event typically attracts thousands of onlookers and is hosted by a number of local Rotary clubs and the Royal Canadian Marine Search & Rescue Unit #5.
Polar Plunges in 2019 and 2020
In 2019 the White Rock Polar Plunge was going to celebrate its 49th year. Because of severe wind damage to the White Rock Pier in December 2018, however, the 2019 swim was cancelled. The pier has fortunately since been repaired and the swim celebrated its 50th anniversary on January 1st, 2020.
The event takes place in the community of White Rock at the beach just east of the pier right by the community’s landmark giant white rock. Registration happens at 10:30 am and the plunge starts at around 12:00 pm or shortly before.
In recent years as many as 3000 people have attended the event. In 2020 organizers hoped that as many as 800 of them would bring their swimsuits.
January 1st, 2020, turned out to be a wonderfully beautiful day. It was sunny and warm and thousands of people turned out for the event. The weather couldn’t have been better!
The White Rock Polar Plunge is a free event – there is absolutely no charge to participate. There is also usually free hot chocolate and coffee available at the swim (although donations are greatly appreciated). Food truck vendors are typically nearby serving hot treats for people who get hungry.
As 2020 was the 50th year of the White Rock Polar Bear Plunge, there were commemorative souvenirs available for purchase at the event this past year. Polar Bear Plunge t-shirts cost about $10 and commemorative toques cost $15.
Participation in the Polar Swim
Participants in the White Rock Polar Bear Plunge are encouraged to register for the event. Polar Bear plunging is free and registered participants get an official Polar Plunge certificate. Swimmers are encouraged to wear costumes and prizes are awarded for the best.
With respect to costumes and prizes, there is an adults’ category and a children’s category with first, second and third place awards most years.
Polar Bear Plunge Video
To give you an idea of what to expect at the White Rock Polar Bear Plunge check out the following video which was taken at the event in 2020 (which was an unusually warm and wonderfully sunny day). As you’ll see, thousands of people attend the event.
Tips and Advice
Below are some tips and suggestions to help you make the most out of your White Rock Polar Bear Plunge experience.
TIP #1: If swimming, wear a costume because it’s fun, there are prizes and it might help keep you warm (or at least warmer than just your trunks or bikini). Also, consider wearing some kind of water shoes as the tide might be close to where the beach gets rocky.
TIP #2: Don’t be upset if your photo appears in the newspaper (or in online media like Vancouver’s Best Places). This is a public event and media will be there! Not wanting to be recognized or show off too much skin is another good reason to wear a costume.
TIP #3: Don’t forget to take a towel, camera, warm clothes to change into afterwards and your friends and family.
TIP #4: This is one time when swimming on an empty stomach might not be the best idea. Having a bit of food inside you might help keep you an extra degree or two warmer.
TIP #5: The crowd decides who wins the prizes for best costumes (or at least that’s usually the case). Judges ask people to cheer for each contestant and the prizes are awarded based on the loudest screams. The prizes include things like t-shirts and polar bear-related souvenirs, and they are nice. So don’t just wear a really good costume – also invite lots of friends with loud voices to come along and cheer you on!
TIP #6: Supplies are limited, so be sure to get your souvenir 50th anniversary t-shirt and commemorative toque while you can.
TIP #7: Especially if it’s a day with good weather, go really early if you want to find a parking spot for your car. By 11:00 am most parking spots are already taken. If you arrive after that you might have to park up the hill in the centre of the town and walk down to the beach. That’s not too hard. Walking back up the steep hill afterwards, though, especially if you’re cold after an icy swim, will be the challenge!
For more information, click White Rock Polar Bear Swim (for details about the swim from a couple of years ago) or visit the White Rock Polar Bear Swim‘s Facebook page (to learn about the online event that happened in 2021).
The event is hosted by the Rotary Club of White Rock, Rotary Club of Semiahmoo, Rotary Club of South Surrey, Rotary Club of PNW Passport, Rotary Club of White Rock Peninsula and Rotary Club of White Rock-Peace Arch. These are service club organizations made up of professionals, business people and other like-minded individuals who support both local and international charitable projects.
Other polar bear swims take place in Vancouver, North Vancouver, Port Moody, Delta and Fort Langley. For details about these other events click Lower Mainland New Year’s Swims.
For information about the venue and surrounding area, see our page about White Rock.