There is some dispute over the origin of the name of the group that was formed almost 70 years ago, but all agree that joining the Polar Bears for a morning swim is one of those quintessential Vineyard experiences. “Nowadays,” writes Nelson,” on July 4, the official beginning of the Polar Bears’ season, it is not surprising to find a hundred people in attendance. They do not all swim. Some stand in a circle in the water, exercising, while others swim slow laps. Others cluster on the beach, gingerly easing into the cold water or drying off with faded, well-used beach towels. Still others sit on the benches installed by the Friends of Oak Bluffs or on the concrete seawall that borders the beach, across from Waban Park, talking, enjoying the sun, greeting friends not seen since the previous day or summer. On July 4 and every Monday until Labor Day, members provide an enormous, complimentary, and always delicious potluck breakfast.”

Good to know:

When parking along Oak Bluffs Town Beach, be sure your car is facing the direction of traffic or you can be ticketed.