When three golden girls from East Chop went swimming Tuesday morning, they had little trouble finding their spot at the beach.
No beach towels were in the way, nor were there children on the shoreline to dodge, as they sped down into the water in front of the East Chop Beach Club.
Except for a stiff, bitterly cold arctic blast from the southeast, all was quiet at the beach club. The temperature was in the 30s.
And there was no shortage of space amid the rolling waves in the 39-degree seawater for the swimmers at the popular summer beach.
By all appearances, the Vineyard ladies had the whole ocean to themselves on the first day of January.
Not enough words exist in the English language to describe the feeling of cold thrills. One of the three, Joan Potter said, “I feel like I am seven.”
Witnesses were present: three husbands dressed more for a snowstorm than a trek to the beach. While the wives stripped down to almost nothing, the men admitted to each other to being barely warm enough in their winter hats, thick coats and woolen gloves.
Mrs. Potter noted that “we usually don’t go swimming when there are whitecaps.”
But in a quick dockside meeting out of the wind between her and co-conspirators Liz Huss and Penny Hinkle, they reached an agreement.
The whitecaps from the east were not enough of a worry. This was their moment to march into a memory.
As they swam, the digital cameras held shakily by their men clicked away.
“Exhilarating,” said Mrs. Potter, afterwards. “I can understand why the Russians do it.”
Swimming in the ocean out of season is not so unusual for the three. They’ve been swimming as late into the year as they can. “I think we tried to go swimming every day up to Thanksgiving,” Mrs. Potter said.
Their interest isn’t just a passion for swimming — it is an affection for each other. There is plenty of fellowship to warm the heart on a cold day between the three.
Mrs. Huss said all three ladies share plenty of memories of East Chop going back to their childhood. Their love for family and friends also extends out into the neighborhood. All three couples are year-round East Chop residents.
The Potters started staying year-round years ago. The Huss couple shifted from seasonal to year-round eight winters ago and the Hinkles just became year-round residents this winter.
Every time the gals are together, their energy level explodes. Their enthusiasm is enough to drive any kind of event, even one involving a brief dip in a frigid ocean.
Each spoke of taking a warm bath afterward.
“I’ve heard about Canyon Ranch SpaClub and I’ve heard of Elizabeth Arden Red Door Salon & Spa. I’ve never gone there but I tell you I think I know what it is like. It is heaven,” Mrs. Potter said. “It gets the blood flowing.”
Mrs. Hinkle also got her own chuckle when she relived a summer ritual of hanging the wet swim suit outside to dry.
“This is a wonderful community. We all look out for each other,” Mrs. Huss said. “It is a great feeling.”
Within a few hours of the short swim, the pictures were a hot item among family members, having been e-mailed around the country.