The City of Nanaimo has long been a hub for fun summer activities, and the city’s annual Bathtub Race demonstrates Nanaimo’s unique and quirky approach to summer entertainment. In this race, participants compete in vessels that are part speedboat, part bathtub.
The first race took place in 1967 to celebrate Canada’s 100th birthday and saw over 200 “tubbers” participating in a wide variety of strange and exciting watercraft. In early days, Nanaimo’s mayor, Frank Ney, was often seen sporting a pirate costume and waving his sword in support of the tub race.
Initially, the race formed part of Vancouver’s Sea Festival, and competitors crossed the Strait of Georgia in their eclectic vessels, racing all the way from Nanaimo to Kitsilano Beach. Remarkably, people made this strenuous journey in watercraft they had made out of whatever they had lying around in their backyard.
As Kevin Saunders notes in his book 50 Years of Bathtub Racing, a number of changes have been made since the early days of this eccentric competition. In the 1990s, the race’s destination was moved to Departure Bay. In place of “old silly bathtubs,” the participants now race “high-tech speedboats.” Since the 1980s, the race has attracted international competitors, with participants coming from places as far afield as Australia.
While the Bathtub Race might be Nanaimo’s silliest summer event, it is by no means the city’s only exciting summer amusement. This year, some notable Nanaimo entertainment includes Jazz Affair on the Coast, coming up soon on May 25th, the Nanaimo Gem and Mineral Show on May 26th and 27th, the famed Dragon Boat Festival on July 7th and 8th, and the Ukulele Festival on July 14th and 15th.