Allow me to introduce you to H2Oi.
There’s an annual organized car meet that takes place in Atlantic City, New Jersey on the last weekend of September. It’s not huge, but every year hundreds of German car enthusiasts (mostly fans of the VWAG marque) gather to appreciate each other’s cars. This event is officially called H2Oi.
There’s also an unofficial event that meets some odd 100 miles down the coast in Ocean City, Maryland, where the official meet used to be. It’s several times larger than the official event, so much so that if someone says “I’m going to H2Oi”, you assume without doubt they’re headed for Ocean City.
This division occurred years ago when crowds that gathered for the official H2Oi event became so rowdy that the authorities pressured them to relocate the event, which they did.
Many of these rowdy event goes were not even ticket holders for the actual event, but came to Ocean City just to cruise the strip with friends, enjoy the beach, and cause mischief. When the official H2Oi relocated to Atlantic City, the hivemind decided that Ocean City would continue to be where the real party’s at.
And that’s how it’s been ever since — and year after year the crowd multiplies, along with police presence, tickets issued, and arrests performed.
The H2Oi crowd is overwhelmingly not my type. Years before attending, I read the articles, saw the pictures, and watched the videos, and concluded that H2Oi is the armpit of automotive culture (this is before “takeovers” had taken off). I had nothing positive to say about it.
So how’d we end up there, anyway?
Years ago when attending a Japanese Classics open house, a couple friends and I struck up conversation with Kevin Legaspi, best known for his iconic HR31 Nissan Skyline sedan which has been featured in StanceWorks as well as many professionally filmed H2Oi re-cap videos. Kevin’s attention to detail in his builds commands a level of respect that I hope I’ll someday reach.
H2Oi somehow came up, and he urged us to go. I remember bringing up my concerns, but he ensured us that so long as we didn’t run double digit camber or do burnouts we wouldn’t get in any trouble with the law, and we would enjoy the experience and want to come back every year. Kevin attends various prestigious automotive events every year, but he prefers H2Oi to them all.
He was right, and we were hooked. Despite not hating OCPD, doing burnouts in side streets, or getting publicly intoxicated, I still look forward to attending H2Oi. Not everyone at a circus performs the same way. Some pull burnouts so long that smoke piles above the surrounding hotels in front of a crowd eager to amp up their Instagram stories. Others simply enjoy cruising down the strip in the cars they pour their heart and soul into with their friends.
You can probably guess what group I fall into.
In addition to all of H2Oi’s rubber igniting theatrics, there’s something very novel about the majority of drivers along a nearly 10 mile strip being gearheads. At one stoplight, a right hand drive Suzuki Cappuccino pulls up next to you. Upon reaching the next intersection, it’s a widebody Lamborghini. The next, a Toyota Celica on airbags that looks like it may have been in a rollover. Something for everyone.
One of my favorite activities is just walking street by street looking for cars that have been parked for the night with good lighting. Every block has something that, if stumbled upon in any other circumstances, would stop me in my tracks thinking “Wow! that’s cool!”
Despite all of this, my group has unsurprisingly decided we’re going to take a year off in the midst of COVID-19 and rising police tension throughout the nation. It pains us to miss out, but we’re attempting to use our better judgement.
Will we return, pending a break in global pandemic and world events? You betcha. And when we do, I’ll try to keep my phone in my pocket more, and my DSLR in my hands. I did a good job this past year being more creative in my photography, but I missed a bunch of what makes H2Oi H2Oi.