Updated: Dec 4, 2020
H2O International is a long standing Volkswagen/Audi event in its 22nd year. For 19 of those years, it was held outside Ocean City, Maryland while OC served as the home base for people who came down to spend the weekend, and later week, leading up to the show. Ocean City offers a unique experience in that it's a narrow, long peninsula with a 6 lane divided main road spanning the length of it. The layout offered the contained feeling of all the festivities being very centralized, and because of the unique experience of a sort of island overrun by enthusiasts, it gained rapid popularity within the past 10 years. Over time, more people within and outside of the VAG community began descending upon the city over the years, primarily for the antics and using it as a centralized point to meet with distant friends, and with that change, H2Oi became more about the weekend on "the strip" than about the actual show.
As time wore on, emotions between event attendees and the local government began to flare. While host to many events over the season, H2Oi was one of the few that was never a sanctioned event in Ocean City since it was not actually hosted in town. With growing size and media attention, the mayor wanted to start clamping down on attendees by increasing policing and the strictness of the law. The result of which was people comparing ridiculous fines such as "endangering the public" because their car was too low or "obstruction of view" due to a 3x18" sticker on their windshield. Comparison led to competition as it became a sort of bragging right to bring a wild car down to see what you could get away with. Media outlets and video creators flocked to document the mayhem, spawning about 20 annual "official" "after movies." The event was dubbed "America's most ticketed car show" and the community ate it up. The more it was reported, the more people wanted in.
This evolution drew in a slight change in crowd. Outlets began reporting and filming more rowdy activities and destructive behavior than previously and people flocked to the vacation town to participate. In a counter measure the mayor and his police force clamped down harder and harder every year to attempt to force the event out of their city. The more they wanted us out of their city, the more people retaliated. People got bolder and the police got harsher.
Pressure from the city, the event's tie to the weekend's festivities, and the demographic attending resulted in H2Oi not being held at all in 2017. Attendance that year continued to grow despite the absence of an actual event. In 2018, H2Oi was moved to Atlantic City while attendance in Ocean City continued to grow, sprouting the name H2NOi in 2019. H2NOi still carries a lot of the same vibe as H2Oi weekends of the past, but the night time antics are more extreme than before. It is important to note, a lot of the bad in the media is sensationalized, while the abundance of cameras and phones makes it impossible for something to occur and not be captured and posted instantly to be shared everywhere.
Part one of my coverage of the weekend revolves around the more lax environment of the day time's festivities, another part will cover the sundown happenings. Maybe a third as well...or some quickies...who knows.
The trip began about an hour west of Boston at a rest stop on the Mass Pike. I intended to take a bunch of pictures of the whole journey but only really grabbed a few shots about three hours into the nine hour drive down. In traditional fashion, the long drive was made more enjoyable by going in a group. Our group's cars consisted of two bagged VWs, a brand new Camaro, my daily, and these two BMWs. Steve and Justin have two different ideas of the classic BMW and BBS combination. Steve's tightly fitted E36 M3 on RFs was a sight on the highway skating above the pavement...and showering my car in tire from rubbing. Justin's daily driver E30 325 managed to pull off a set of 17" Style 5s better than I would have ever expected!
One of H2NOi's biggest draws is the eclectic mix of cars in attendance and the accessibility of them. As you cross the bridge onto Ocean City's main strip, you're flooded with wild cars of all makes and styles. After driving through the night for hours, you want nothing more than a nap. As soon as you cross the bridge, the last thing you want to do is sleep in case you miss something.
I'm not going to lie and say everything down there is incredible. There are a lot of...questionable cars in attendance. That said, standing in place talking to friends, an incredibly low Catalina, Ferrari 360 Challenge Stradale, MK4 Supra, and R33 drove by in one traffic light cycle.
It's hard to focus when you're down there. Wherever you are, there's constantly cool cars lapping the strip or snaking through backroads. No matter how much time you spend out and about, there's always tons of cars you miss.
In years past, a staple of H2Oi's Ocean City weekend was the endless car meets throughout the city. In the past few years, it has grown more difficult to host a meet or stay in one place for long due to certain businesses not wanting the traffic and an increase in the police's haste to shoo people away from congregating. What meets are met with success become huge. This year, Canibeat held the best meet of the weekend with so many people attending, it caused a huge traffic jam.
Christian Loza of Canibeat has one of the coolest CU2 TSXs ever. The exterior is home to a full Mugen kit which in itself is rare, what achieves unobtanium is the exterior in combination with a set of Mugen Recaro seats. Keeping this machine on the road is a set Volk CE28s covering Spoon calipers and an air suspension setup.
Separated from Christian's TSX by about 30 years, this CRX also wore Mugen aero.
Greeting everyone at the Coffee Beanery entrance was this perfect RHD Mini. Black is a fairly uncommon color on these and the little tuxedo suits it well. It's gold wheels are complemented with custom itty bitty turbo fans. Such an exciting little cruiser!
Crowds flowed around Josh Guillot's SRT6 Crossfire. Secretly, Crossfires are R170 Mercedes SLKs and the SRT6 variants have MB's supercharged V6. Josh's has been personalized with Rocket Bunny splitters retrofitted to make up for the lack of aftermarket support for the chassis in the styling department.
For what began as a VAG event, the weekend brings out some real cool Japanese cars.
Origin's Racing Line is such a stylish kit and looks especially purposeful with the additional canards. This wasn't the only S15 of the weekend but it was probably my favorite, especially with those aggressive SSR Professor TF1s.
A surprising amount of B7 RS4s were in attendance that weekend, this bagged taxi being the most unique. There's few modern Audis I want, but I have a strong desire for a B7 RS4...just not much desire to maintain one.
Always expect the unexpected! An SUV's roofline sitting about level with that of an Accord is insane! This Expedition bodied over Intro Twisted Matrixes was wild, it's orange hue danced in the sunlight as you circled it. In the top pic you can catch a glimpse of the custom sliding rag top.
A similar American recipe with a wildly different result, low American slabs and chrome tucked up to the fenders. These two laid out Challengers were rad, the silver one was surprisingly static.
This hot pink S13 hatch oozed style.
I wish I tracked down the owner of this Corolla to find out what else was done to it. Its purposeful stance over TE37s was a wonderful surprise.
Stylish 9th gens seem to be a rarity. This one on OG TE37s seemed to be everywhere, and it was definitely a welcome sight every time I saw it.
MD Interiors was prowling around in their incredible looking Voltex x Evasive Motorsports GTR. The wild aero package looked tremendously out of place in a beachfront vacation town.