Canadian-made sports: bathtub racing

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A man racing a bathtub in a boat on the water. Ryan Mcloed (Surrey Now Leader)

You do not want to forget to put the plug in for this race.

Bring your bath salts and rubber duck – Bathtub Racing is one of the eclectic original Canadian sports, and spectators will have a hell of a time watching it. Each year, spectators and contestants gather on the beaches in Nanaimo, British Columbia, to watch motorized bathtubs coast along the water in the race of their lives. The “tubbers” gear up each year for the marathon race, combatting choppy waters in their unique watercrafts.

Each year, tubbers gather for the epic ocean race to joust it out with the open water. The L-shaped course spanning 58 kilometres takes contenders two to three hours to complete. For most tubbers, their biggest competition is not each other, but the conditions of the water. Participating in the annual Bathtub Race takes courage, but to complete it takes strategy. While the bathtub gives a quirky look, it does not provide much suspension on open water, causing many tubbers to capsize during the race. Many tubbers have stated that they felt like they had been tossed around in a washing machine, even upon finishing the race. The finish line is an iconic staple of the race, as tubbers must beach their watercraft, run to the finish line, and ring the bell to signify the race’s winner.

Tubbers must wear a wetsuit that extends to their elbows and knees, as well as a motorcycle helmet and lifejacket. Each must have a boater safety certificate per Canadian Coast Regulations to operate a tub in the race. Each tub must have a kill switch, much like the ones on jet skis, in the very likely event that the tubber gets knocked off during the race.

As for the tub itself, the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society wants the event to stay true to its roots and only contain roll-edged tubs to fit the race’s aesthetic. Every watercraft must include bright colours in the event of capsizing so the officials can find it.

If you think this event is a little ridiculous, that is because it is. Bathtub racing is an event that represents true Canadian creativity on a sporting level. The inaugural race occurred on July 1, 1967, Canada’s 100th anniversary, where Nanaimo local Pat Fagan gathered himself and other firefighters to construct the first-ever bathtub watercraft. 47 boats raced the first year through the 36 mile course to Vancouver’s Fisherman Cove.

This resourceful event may have never taken off if it were not for Frank Ney’s enthusiasm as the Mayor of Nanaimo. Mayor Ney very passionately became a mascot for all bathtub racers sporting his flattering pirate costume.

“You think riding a bronco is tough? Try riding a bathtub!” Exclaimed Mayor Ney in a promotional video for the races.

The event has gained attention from spectators and tubbers all over the country. As a result, the event has become the Marine Festival and National Bathtub Racing Championship, with parades and fireworks to appeal to all spectators.

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