British Columbia

Bathtub racing approved for Kitsilano Beach in 2018

A historic aquatic race in B.C. will be revitalized with a new twist in 2018.

Vancouver Park Board approves the event, which harkens back to historical races from Nanaimo to Vancouver

The CHUB Radio tub, which entered the very first bathtub race between Nanaimo and Vancouver in 1967, is an example of the "backyard specials" that used to race in the competition. (Courtesy Kevin Saunders)

A historic aquatic race in B.C. could be revitalized with a new twist in 2018. 

The Vancouver Park Board unanimously approved a motion Monday to allow bathtub racing during the annual KitsFest event next year.

Scheduled to be held at Kitsilano Beach on Aug. 11, the event would see a bathtub racing circuit set up in English Bay, with races going on throughout the afternoon.

"We're trying to bring the fun back to Vancouver, and I think this is another fun event I think people will really appreciate," said park board commissioner John Coupar. 

Bathtub racing took place annually between Nanaimo and Kits Beach from 1967 to 1996, with hundreds of tubs crossing the choppy waters of the Strait of Georgia.

"This is a very unique event. Those that haven't experienced a bathtub race, it's iconic … and it sort of fell in our laps," said Howard Kelsey, co-founder of KitsFest.

Traditionally, the boats have a hull and a motor, with the base a traditional bathtub. Kelsey said there would only be 10 to 20 bathtub boats for the first year, motorized but with a maximum of 10 horsepower. 

KitsFest also plans to work with the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society in putting on the races. 

There will also be an area where alcohol is served at the north end of Kits Beach during the races. Octavio Silva, the park board's manager of business development, said more details will be available on the logistics of the races closer to the date.

"This is a bit of a unique activity. Before they can go down further down the path … they need an indication whether this is supported or not. If we get a green light from the board, we'll work collaboratively from the organizers," he said before the vote. 

Kelsey said the plan was to keep the bathtub races small in year one, but the event could grow if the races were a success.

"We think it's easily manageable, easily vigilated, and we'll have all the water experts to take care of liability," he said.