For more than half a century, Nanaimo has been the epicentre of a summer tradition like no other: racers zooming around the harbour in the Great International World Championship Bathtub Race.

From its beginnings in 1967 as a race across the Strait of Georgia from Nanaimo to Vancouver, the event has grown into a weekend-long cultural celebration.

"All of our events are all about community," said Greg Peacock, Commodore of the Loyal Nanaimo Bathtub Society. "We are all here to have a lot of fun. We are all here to do this together."

This year's festivities began on Friday, with crafts, food vendors, free concerts and a beer garden in Maffeo Sutton Park. Saturday featured a parade in the morning and fireworks at night, all culminating in the centrepiece bathtub race on Sunday.

Racer Justin Lofstrom of Nanaimo came to shore in roughly one hour, breaking his own race record, set back in 2016. He said the weather was a key factor in his success this year.

"[This is] probably the calmest year I've ever raced," Lofstrom said. "The year I won in 2016 was similar, but not as calm as today."

Ahead of this year's race, Peacock predicted records could be set.

"We could set a world record this year because we upped our horsepower to 10 horse - or 9.9," he said. "Some of these guys are doing in excess of 40 miles an hour."

While Lofstrom came in an undisputed first place, there was some real drama for second in Sunday's race. Two tubs hit the beach at the same time, leading to a footrace up the beach to ring the bell and officially finish the race.

Brandon Leigh finished in third place. He attributed his loss in the footrace to hitting the beach a bit too hard in his tub.

"I've never done a footrace before in the big race, so it was a change." Leigh said.

"On the way home, we were playing with the wakes of the stock boats and their escorts and I ended up calving a lot," said racer Trevor Short, who came in second. "Brandon ended up catching on me pretty quick."

The 58-kilometre race takes racers out of Nanaimo Harbour and up the coast to Lantzville, navigating around small islands off the shore before returning to the finish line at Maffeo Sutton Park.