Thrasher Magazine: Hesh

The Pacific Northwest definitely has it's own culture. Many have described its skate scene using the word 'hesh'. In the summer of 2011, I was lucky enough to join the éS footwear team on a journey through the region in search of the true meaning of that word. The following is an article I wrote for the October 2011 issue of Thrasher Magazine.

Photography: Joe Brook.

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Tri-X Trip: Pacific Northwest Tour

The term “Hesh” and the Pacific Northwest seem to go hand-in-hand. But what does hesh mean? It’s not easily defined, and there’s certainly lots of room for interpretation. Most would agree it’s derived from the word “Hessian,” which Webster’s defines as “A mercenary or venal person.” However, when browsing for the definition, some associated key words popped up: “Dirty, unkempt, fuck yeah, bandana, Suicidal Tendencies, biker chicks, back Smith.” An eclectic group of words; nonetheless, they all seem to apply. This summer, the éS team traveled extensively through the Pacific Northwest in search of the word’s meaning.

The tale of three vans
We trekked the rugged coastline of the Pacific in a three-vehicle caravan: The éS van, led by Scuba Steve; Joe Brook’s van, Big Blue, led by the man himself; and the Ventura homie van, with Manderson’s bro Paul Williams-Ramirez at the helm. Each van was unique in its own way, with varying levels of comfort and space. The individual character of each, the lengthy journeys, the disposal of bodily fluids, and the places we encountered along the way all aided in our search for the meaning of hesh.

Scuba Steve was the leader of the pack, driving the éS van in pole-position for the trip’s duration. This was by far the most luxurious vehicle of the three, with ample space and superior hygiene. It was also the only ride for the initial leg of the trip from LA to the Bay Area. Once Big Blue and the Ventura van came into the picture, there was a mass exodus from Scuba’s beast, the skaters looking to rough it out and get a little cozier in honor of what we were all searching for.

The éS van was given the nickname of “first-class” by the members of the other van’s crews, and by the end of the trip, much to Scuba’s dismay, the first class-cabin had lost almost all of its passengers. Kevin Romar, Kellan James, and Trent McClung held it down, however, sticking it out for the duration without giving in to the temptations of the other rides.

While the éS van was first-class, Big Blue was more like economy: A slightly smaller van—somewhat weathered—but nevertheless full of character with a huge American flag sticker on the left side. This van’s crew were Brook, Bobby Worrest, John Rattray, Rick McCrank, Kevin Terpening, Ben Raemers, Marty Reigel, and myself.

Then there was the Ventura van. Quite possibly the heshest of the three, this 15-passenger had no rear windows, one bench in the back, and a carpeted floor. It was deemed “The Living Room,” due to the rear cabin’s resemblance to your childhood best friend’s basement. The crew: Angel Saucedo, Paul Williams-Ramirez, Rueben Alcantar, Mike Anderson, Stevie Perez, and Josh Matthews. The lack of windows and seats in the back made for an interesting dynamic. The world on the left side of Big Blue was a mystery due to the flag covering the windows, but in The Living Room, the entire world was a mystery to the rear passengers. It wasn’t uncommon to be completely disoriented at every stop. All the skaters saw were the beginning and end points of each journey—nothing in between. Angel stepped out of the van after a short drive to the gas station and said, “Damn Doggy, we’re not at the hotel no more?” This sort of reaction became perfectly normal as the trip progressed.

Piss the bottle
It’s no secret that time spent in the van brings about the most memorable moments of the journey, especially when traveling with such a charismatic group of gentlemen. One of these moments happens on long rides, when bodily fluids are disposed of into whatever containers are readily available. Known as “pissing in a bottle,” this activity reduces the amount of bathroom stops on the road. Most people can fill up gallons of empty water bottles through these stretches. Each member of the crew bought gallon jugs of water to fill up with their own brand before one particularly long drive from Northern California to Eugene, OR.

In order to ensure that the bottles wouldn’t be confused with one another, everyone naturally wrote their names on them, eventually personalizing the vessels with artwork representative of their personalities. A big smiley face on Ben’s bottle represented his care-free, happy-go-lucky attitude. A lion with smoke all around it on Josh’s symbolized his 420 lifestyle. A bottle with a Coors Lite can covered in tattoos expressed all that is Bobby. When we finally arrived in Eugene, we lined up all the jugs in the hotel parking lot—it was as if we were looking at our urine alter-egos sitting there on the asphalt. Sadly, all the bottles were used for BB gun target practice the following morning. I think a little piece of everyone died inside as they watched their pee containers lit up by the smoking gun.

State Fair Letdown
Following Portland, we trekked it up to Olympia, WA—hometown of our resident cinematographer, Marty Reigel. We arrived in Olympia during their annual summer lake fair. Since it was raining for the duration of our time there we dove face-first into the Ferris Wheels, Carny games, and stuffed animal prizes. In hindsight, this may have been a huge diversion from our journey to find the meaning of hesh, but Manderson did seem to have a knack for those Carny games. He won every contest in sight, from shooting rifles at moving targets to a cardboard cut-out horse race. By the time he left he had prizes for everyone: Inflatable chairs, life-sized stuffed animals, gold chains…

Doin' Guys
Olympia turned out to be quite the town,  but it was time to head for our final destination of Seattle. It turned out to be a good ender to the trip. We had some great days cruising around the city and taking in the sights. On our last night in town we drank beers outside the hotel and reminisced about our time together. Ben strolled into a nearby alley to take a piss, where he noticed the silhouettes of two people in the distance who seemed to be getting pretty hot and heavy. Eventually a haggard-looking bearded man and a seemingly-weathered woman of the night emerged. The man headed away from us, but the woman walked right up. As she approached, Ben politely—and innocently—inquired, “Excuse me miss, what were you doing back there?”
“Doin’ guys,” she replied, simply. Ben surely understood the rest. She offered her services to the crew, which we respectfully declined. It had been a long trip, but not that long.

All in all, the journey was a success. Did we discover the meaning of hesh? It’s hard to say. Can it really be defined? Is it supposed to be defined? Who knows? We did get to travel around an amazing part of the country with an incredible crew, and had some unforgettable moments in between. I’d do it all over again in a heartbeat.