What to Know Before a Race


Here are some common questions we get for race registration and events.

Preparation Details

What should I do leading up to a race (in general)?

  • Believe in yourself! You have many weeks to get to the race.
  • Check if the race has any distances that swimmers should be able to comfortably swim
  • Find a swim coach
  • Find some swim buddies and go for a few swims
  • Come to a few VOWSA practice swims
  • Remember: you’re probably only racing against yourself! Your goal is to finish! You don’t need to worry about the ‘race’ aspect of it if you don’t want to! 


What should I do the week/day before a race?

  • Week before
    • Check your emails and VOWSA social media for any announcements
  • Day before
    • Pack everything you need (see below for tips!) 
    • Have a good meal
    • Sleep 😌


What should I expect at my first race?

  • A warm and welcoming space with lots of fellow swimmers, VOWSA volunteers, friends, family, and the general public
  • Check with the VOWSA volunteers for a safe spot to leave your belongings. We recommend bringing the minimum needed for your swim.


What should I bring to my first race?

  • Bring whatever you usually you bring to do a practice swim at Kits (change of clothing, towel, flip flops, a mug or reusable bottle for a beverage, a small snack [even though races have snacks, there might be something specific you’d prefer!])
  • Weather  appropriate clothing for before & after your race. You will be good when you’re racing. But remember there’s lots of time before and after the race. 


Am I fast enough?

  • Certain races, such as the Around the Bay, will have qualifying times for people to complete the swim. This is due to the permits with lifeguards and the City of Vancouver and the Port of Vancouver.
  • For other races, the distances are seeded to allow for the different distances to have enough time to finish. For example, at the Canada Day Challenge swim, the longer distance swimmers start first and then the shorter distance swimmers start last. This allows for some long distance swimmers to finish with the short distance swimmers.  
  • If you’re anxious about how long it will take you to finish, you can ask the race director when the ‘cut off’ time is for the race. Please communicate with Vancouver Open Water Swim Association If you feel like your may not finish in time. 


Other concerns?: 

  • While some people are racing to ‘win’ or achieve a personal best time, that’s not the only way to view a ‘race’. You can absolutely register for a race just to have the experience of swimming the course on race day to see how you do. As a note, VOWSA races are actually called ‘challenges.’’ 
  • Depending on your comfort level, you could start at the back of the group for your swim distance. This reduces your chance of being caught in the initial congestion of a race start. 

Registration Details

I can’t find my registration details. What do I do?

When you register, you’ll should receive a confirmation email at the address used during registration. Please check your spam folder in case the message was accidentally marked as spam. If you still can’t find it, contact us.

Can I change my distance?

After you register, you can change the distance of your race up till the close of registration. You must change your distance before the close of registration. Please email the Race Director, include your registration confirmation number and the distance to which you would like to change. No distance changes are permitted once registration is closed.


I can’t attend. Can I get a refund or transfer my registration?

No. All event entries are non-transferable and non-refundable. Safety is of the utmost importance in open water swim races, and we must have accurate and up-to-date information about everyone in the water. You cannot transfer your registration to another swim. You also cannot transfer your registration to another race.

Please see our refund policy.

Cancelled Events

VOWSA reserves the right to reschedule or cancel events if water conditions are unsafe.

VOWSA reserves the right to refuse entry based on safety or health concerns or previous violations of official rules.