H2Oi: Coastal Chaos by Markis Sarkis

The Experience.

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Before I get into the whole H2Oi experience, I’ll begin with a little background on the event.  H2Oi is a car show that happens every year in late September/early October, which takes place in beautiful Ocean City, Maryland.  What started out as a European-only car show has evolved into what many claim to be a week long “stanced” car take over of Ocean City.  For the VW and Audi enthusiasts, they tend to want the outcasts (non-German cars) to stop coming to Ocean City for H2Oi.  One cannot ignore the heavy police presence at the event and this show has been deemed the most ticketed automotive event in the world, and this year, the Ocean City Police Department showed no signs of changing that by bringing back state troopers and police from other counties to try and control the chaos that takes place on the Coastal Highway.  Now, I had wanted to experience H2Oi ever since I saw Krispy’s video of H2Oi 2013 – this trip was planned last minute, but I could not be happier that I had the opportunity to go.  Now to get into the H2Oi experience.


The Drive.

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We knew that coming from Toronto (up in Canada, eh) that we would have a hectic 14-hour drive ahead of us.  Naturally, the plan was to take turns driving through the night and be in Ocean City first thing in the morning.  The trip began around 10pm – I met with Mike (@banezee) and Chris (@cj.shoots) and we began our trip to the border to meet with our friends, Ryan (above), and a couple other cars.  The drive was rather boring to be completely honest and it felt as though we had been driving forever as naturally, we were too excited.  The drive consisted of a lot of back-road driving through New York, Pennsylvania and Maryland.  The highlight of the drive was definitely driving through the sunset in Pennsylvania as the sun glared through the fog – it was breathtaking.  Sadly, my camera was in the back of the truck during the sunset, but we did manage to get some shots driving through the fog.

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Once we had gotten through Pennsylvania and entered Maryland, everything became all the better – the excitement levels were through the roof, and once we crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, we could not contain ourselves. We were all taking snapchats, posting on our instagrams, and nothing could come close to that feeling of finally cruising down the strip (Coastal Highway). Within two minutes of being in Ocean City, we already began to see some awesome cars.

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Settled In.

Once we had gotten settled in to the hotel, we decided to take a couple of minutes to just relax on the balcony and look down as cars started to pass by, just enjoying the view.  Roughly a half hour later, we got in contact with our good friend, Chad (@chadmcgarity), from Stance East who told us about a meet that was happening at the Taphouse.  Within five minutes of getting there, Ocean City Police started kicking people out of the spot. We decided to cruise up and down the strip and that’s when we saw OCPD’s first victim

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Kevin (@framebanggang) was the first person whom our group of friends witnessed getting impounded.  Considering it was only Wednesday and not many people had made it to Ocean City, he wasn’t too happy about this.  What set him off the most was that the officer was telling him that his negative camber (which is measured in degrees) exceeded the legal decibel (used to measure sound) limit. Kevin had no problem getting impounded, in fact, he and his friend Sam were helping the tow truck driver get the car hooked up to go to the impound.  Moments later, I saw my friend, Tommy (@stock_brz), pulling into his hotel followed by two cruisers.

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His weekend had yet to start and OCPD was showing no signs of mercy – they did not give him any tickets, but informed him that if the car were to move from where it’s at, he would be impounded immediately.  I was kindly asked to leave by the officer, so I went back to Kevin’s car to get reunited with my friends.  As soon as I got back, I saw two officers putting someone in handcuffs and taking him into the cruiser.

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I was later informed by the man being arrested that he was unlawfully arrested for having a knife (which is legal in the state of Maryland) on his person, all whilst helping Kevin and the tow truck driver get the car on the dolly.  A couple hours later, we went to “rescue” Kevin’s car from the impound lot, and as we were at the impound lot, we were informed that Sam (above) was released.

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Once we left the impound, not much happened afterwards.  We cruised up and down the strip, occasionally stopping to get some photos of cars getting impounded.  We then went to a nice diner for dinner and decided to call it a night.


The Heavy Downpour.

The sun came up and we had all anticipated another beautiful day in Ocean City, but what we got was presumably one of the worst days of the trip.  The morning started off with a heavy downpour that went on all throughout the day, which resulted in a day of shooting cars in parking garages and going grocery shopping.

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Around noon, we met up with a good friend of mine, Chispo (@chispo_), and decided to grab a couple of photos, but little did I know, the worst part of my trip was moments away.  About midway through shooting his car, we had a rather heavy downpour and I slipped with my camera in my hand and it had gotten drenched – it was later on determined that the camera was water-damaged (obviously).  Luckily, a close friend of mine let me borrow his camera for the remainder of our trip in Ocean City and I was back in business!

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Contrary to popular belief, the rain did not stop anyone from having some fun outdoors – pictured above is Chris (@cj.shoots) getting some photos of Stephen’s (@slippen) Bagged VW Rabbit. Once we finished up there, the strip wasn’t busy at all, so we decided to go back to the hotel, edit our shots, and call it a night.


The Sun Shines Again.

Thinking that the trip was going to be awful after the storms, as the news channels were reporting a tropical storm was on it’s way, we woke up around 7 to a great surprise.  We looked out the window expecting the worst, only to see the sun shining and a few cars cruising the strip.  Chris and I then decided to go for a walk to check out the beach and get some clips for his video.

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Once we wrapped up shooting on the beach, we started walking down the strip trying to catch some moody shots of water droplets on the cars.

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We continued our walk down the strip until roughly 10 am, and then we returned to our hotel to make it just in time for last call at breakfast.  We then hopped in the truck and decided to explore Ocean City a little more.

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We had made it roughly two streets down when we saw another car getting impounded by Ocean City Police – once the tow truck had taken the car away, we decided to hang around on 36th street for a little while and get some shots of the truck on the beach.

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Once we were done on 36th street, we started making our way down to 125th to meet up with some friends, but on our way there, I caught something in the corner of my eye.  I saw a widebody Hyundai Genesis parked in a huge puddle.

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Moments later, we saw the owner standing on the curb who recognized Chris (@cj.shoots) from instagram.  We started talking and then decided to conduct a very impromptu shoot in this massive puddle on the end of a random street.

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Because of the heavy rain from the day before, there was some flooding on the street and there were schools of fish just swimming in the puddles, so we decided to catch a few and place them in Stanley’s (@stancedmisniano) camber puddles in his wheels (note that no fish were harmed taking this picture).  For me, this impromptu shoot captured the essence of H2Oi in itself, as it showed that there is literally something on every single street during H2Oi.


 Tensions Rising.

We had taken a break to go out and grab some lunch, then made our way to the Cambergang (@cambergang.tm) house where we met up with Luis (@kinggcamberr) and other members from Cambergang, such as Nick (@nickvitorino), who insisted we shotgun beers when they were handed to us.

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The day went on, we stayed at the house, relaxed, and spoke cars.  Luis then decided to host a meet to get all the stance guys together for a little show so to speak.  Within minutes of the meet location being posted online, dozens of cars started to show up.

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It wasn’t long before the meet caught the attention of Ocean City Police (about 20 minutes). A female officer stepped out of her cruiser yelling at everyone to “Get the f*ck off the street) – I cooperated and made my way onto the sidewalk continuing to take pictures, she then came to confront me and my friend Philip (@doridori.roadster), and threatened to arrest us (unlawfully).

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After the confrontation with the female officer, we decided it was time to head back to our hotel. Roughly halfway to the hotel, we saw Steven (@frslawl) pulled over on a side street.

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Contrary to the popular belief, the officers were very kind and let Steven air the car out for a few photos whilst waiting for the tow truck to arrive and take the car to the impound lot.  Once we had finished taking photos of Steven’s car, we decided to go to the hotel, edit some pictures, and wait for Chris (@krispy) to publicize the location for his “Underglow Meet.”

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Unfortunately at the meet, the shooting conditions were far from ideal – there were no lights whatsoever.  The only light source I had was the car’s headlights and people’s cellphones.

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As you may expect, the meet lasted just over 15 minutes before OCPD was made aware of the meet and started to kick everybody out, hand out some tickets, and impound some cars, granted there was a Honda that had been bouncing off the red line (revving his motor) for roughly 5 minutes, building the hype for a burnout, which never occurred.

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With the police presence becoming larger at the meet, we decided it was time to call it a night and head back to the hotel. Shortly before arriving to the hotel, I decided to capture some rolling shots of the cars around us, and I managed to snag this shot of a Nissan 300zx cruising the strip.


The Home Stretch

Saturday was the busiest day for me at H2Oi. The day started at around 6:30 when I woke up, showered and got ready for my shoot with Tommy (@stock_brz) and Talon (@bagged_t). Our shoot was scheduled for 7:30 as OCPD’s shift change was between 7:30 and 8:00 (from what we were informed), which would give us enough time to cruise the strip and get some rolling shots, then make our way to some shoot spots.

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We were having some coordination issues to get the shoot started (me not having a phone plan, which led to them not knowing when I arrived), but after a little bit of waiting and snagging some free wifi from nearby shops, we were able to get started. We began making our way down the strip to some photo shoot spots.

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Once we finished up with Tommy’s car, it was time to show some love and attention to Talon’s car.  Because his car has air ride, we were able to get the car as high as possible and drive it onto the beach, which in my opinion, truly captured the vibe of Ocean City and made for amazing photos.

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Once we wrapped up on the beach, we decided to cruise around and get some more shots before I completely ruined my schedule.

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After my shoot with Tommy and Talon, I made my way back to the hotel to meet up with a few friends to shoot their cars, but unfortunately, my memory card got corrupted, and at this very moment, I am still having trouble recovering the files. I am praying that the files are not completely lost.

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After those shoots, I had Aaron (@aaron_static) pick me up to meet up with Chris and Mike who were shooting Steven’s car, and luckily, we made it just in time to catch him lighting up the tires.

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Once the car was loaded up onto the trail, we headed one street over back to the Cambergang house, where we ran into (arguably the most famous car online) Kevin’s  (@_k1ll1ionaire_) old car parked in front of the house.  Unfortunately, the time spent at the house this time around was not too far lived, as we had to rush back to the hotel for the next shoot I had lined up that day.

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We had arrived at the hotel with just enough time to import all our content and clear our memory cards to make space for Carl’s (@sti.carl) shoot which followed.  Unfortunately, CJ was having some trouble with his import so Carl and I went for a quick shoot nearby while we waited.

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Once CJ was ready to shoot, we made our way to the desired shoot location, which quite frankly was one of the most iconic (to me) photo spots in all of Ocean City.  We parked the car in front of the Ocean City boardwalk where there was a building which said “Welcome to Ocean City.”  I took a few pictures before I let CJ take over with his video.

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Once CJ had gotten all the necessary clips for his video, we made our way back to the hotel thinking our H2Oi experience was complete.  We started packing our bags, getting ready to leave in the morning, but then I had a message pop up on my phone from a really good friend of mine. He was outside the hotel and wanted to do a quick shoot.  I grabbed my camera gear as quickly as I could and made my way down.  We then started anxiously cruising the strip in hopes of catching some daylight.

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With police presence growing larger and larger as the sun went down, we opted to pull into a bus terminal and start shooting before wasting any more time.  Once we had gathered about four or five quick pictures, we just sat down on the curb and started to talk about our H2Oi experience until it was pitch black out.

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He then dropped me back off to the hotel where I met up with Mike and CJ, where we sat and reflected on the last four days and were devastated that we had to go back to reality.  We called it a night, checked out in the morning, and made our way back to Toronto.


Thought Collection.

As we were driving back, there was no convoy, no cameras; we simply had our truck and the open road.  CJ was asleep for the majority of the drive back, so naturally, us being men, we decided to mess with him.  We would throw fries at him, take numerous snapchat videos, and occasionally hit him with stuff.

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The whole drive back was all smooth sailing until we had gotten to the border.  It started pouring rain – the line of cars was insane and after about 45 minutes of waiting, we finally made it to border security, where the truck ended up getting searched and we were held back another half hour. The moments that followed were just heartbreaking.  We had gotten to the train station and we all went our separate ways.  And just like that, my H2Oi experience had come to an end.


Compendio.

It is almost impossible to describe the H2Oi experience with words; it is incredible seeing the small town just get taken over by modified cars for the week.  Everywhere you look, there is always going to be a beautiful car, and 80% of the time, that car is pulled over.  The whole atmosphere, the vibe, being so close to the beach is what really sets H2Oi apart from any other automotive event I’ve ever been to.  It’s very interesting to finally see all these cars you see on social media, all your friends from out of state that you talk to online all in one place.  It truly is an amazing experience that anyone who is even slightly into cars should experience at least once in their lives.


For anyone that would like to get in touch with Markis, here’s some contact information:

FStop: Profile

Instagram: @maadphotographyto

YouTube: Channel


Markis, thank you for the insightful look into the iconic H2Oi car show! 🙂

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