Keeping Kids In Touch With The Sea

Ron Mizutani
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Wednesday - March 25, 2009
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A honu glides through its underwater world

Like most people who grew up in Hawaii, Russ Inouye’s fondest memories are moments spent in the ocean as a child. Inouye recalls long summer days surfing, diving and fishing with friends. It was a time in their lives when their biggest worry was figuring out when the sun was setting.

Six months ago, something hit him.

“It was like a light bulb went on,” says Inouye. “I started thinking about my son and daughter, and wondering if they would have the same opportunities I had, or would they have to fish in a manmade aquarium where they had farm-raised fish.”

He admits the vision is a bit extreme, but he simply could not shake the thought of his children going to an amusement park in order to fish for papio.

“Our generation is not thinking about our children’s future, and it’s time we did,” he says. “I decided I needed to do something.”


Inouye quickly went to work and came up with the concept of a one-stop shop for ocean enthusiasts. In less than six months, he organized the inaugural Hawaii Ocean Expo, a family-friendly event that will feature vendors, activities, educational opportunities and the largest surf sale Hawaii has ever seen.

“We wanted to create an expo where everyone and anyone who is ocean-minded can come together in one place, on one weekend, to cultivate and share Hawaii’s ocean environment and lifestyle,” says Inouye. “We believe this is the first of its kind.”

The two-day event will be held March 28 and 29 at Neal S. Blaisdell Exhibition Hall. You name it and it will be there: boating, fishing, canoe paddling, surfing, stand-up paddle boarding, kayaking, swimming, scuba diving, sailboarding, skindiving, ocean apparel and much more.

“I want the person who comes to this expo to walk away with information on a topic or activity they knew little about,” says Inouye. “If we can get people to ask questions, it may spark something inside. People have to remember: We all have ties to the ocean, even if you don’t go to the beach.”

Waterkid Brooke Ishikawa

Inouye is especially excited about an educational opportunity called “Ocean University,” which was designed to give organizations an opportunity to spread ocean awareness. Representatives from state and federal agencies will share information on topics ranging from our green sea turtles to rules and regulations when fishing for papio.

“We need to get our kids out and have them stop playing video games,” he laughs. “They have such a beautiful playground in the ocean, but it’s our job to teach them about it while promoting and protecting this natural resource.”

Inouye is no stranger to organizing large events. He is the chief executive officer of VJ Entertainment, a company that promotes night-club parties and programs. But he admits this latest chapter in his life is something very different.

“I believe it will be the most-rewarding project I’ve ever done,” says Inouye. “Everyone behind this event enjoys the ocean, so we thought this was a great way to educate and to give back.”

Inouye says assembling 150 vendors, food booths and big-name chefs in a “few months” has been a challenge, but he says the effort will pay off when people walk through the exhibition hall’s doors.

“I’m really excited about what we’ve accomplished in a short time, and I’m excited about the future,” says Inouye. “I feel like everybody in Hawaii enjoys the ocean, whether it’s for recreation or work, but sometimes we all need a little reminder.”

His reminder came with an extreme vision of his children’s future six months ago.

It was just in time.

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