Splashing in the New Year – The Pender Island Polar Bear Swim

After enjoying the New Year’s Eve Lantern Festival at Magic Lake on Pender Island, we decided to take in another community event on New Year’s Day. We decided to check out the Polar Bear Swim held at Port Browning. We had heard about Polar Bear swims as they are held throughout the country, but we had never been to one. Quite honestly most New Year’s Eves and New Year’s Days we spend holed up back in Alberta trying to forget that it is -20 C (or -30C or -40C) outside. This New Year’s Day provided beautiful weather complete with sunshine; fabulous by our standards.

Port Browning, Pender Island, BC, Canada

Port Browning, Pender Island, BC, Canada

As we first approached the area for the Polar bear swim we were greeted by the musical sounds of the Pender Highlanders.  I have always loved the pipes so I greatly enjoyed passing the time listening to the music while waiting for the main event. My children had other ideas which was passing the time munching down hot dogs from the stand serving hotdogs and hot chocolate. This worked out well, they kept quiet with their mouths full of hot dog while I was actually able to hear the music (food is a wonderful thing!).

The Pender Highlanders Pipe Band.

The Pender Highlanders Pipe Band.

The crowd started to grow, cameras were readied, support staff were in place as the start of the swim neared.


rescue boatEveryone was in a holiday mood, some more than others; our family debated whether the festive swimmer in the black outfit was a spider or an octopus.

costumed swimmerThe swimmers were called to the water’s edge. The crowd shouted out the countdown, and then the brave swimmers ran into the freezing water. The swimmers spanned all ages.

polar bear swim

Polar Bear Swim

A few brave fellows swam to the dock and then proceeded to jump in. There was a swimmer in a Santa Hat, a swimmer in a tie, a family with both grandma and the grandchildren swimming. Some swimmers took a quick dip while others stayed in far longer than I would have thought.

Polar Bear Swim

Polar Bear SwimEventually all the swimmers emerged from the water, even the spider-octopus creature from the deep, and then the brave swimmers headed to warm by the bonfire.

End of the Polar Bear Swim

Swimmer from the deepOur family really enjoyed watching the swim and our boys say they are planning to do it next year……well that is if we can pry the hot dogs out of their hands long enough for them to take a dip!

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2 Responses to Splashing in the New Year – The Pender Island Polar Bear Swim

  1. Looks a little cold.

    However, just imagine a polar bear dip at Sylvan Lake. Pender seems almost tropical by comparison.

    Great photos and write up.

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