Social Encore: Hawaii Ocean Expo returns
BY JERMEL-LYNN QUILLOPO / Special to the Star-Advertiser
Being an island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Hawaii is surrounded by the sea. The ocean is very important to our ecosystem, and to many, their livelihood. This weekend, a festival celebrates our oceanic resources and industries. Join ocean lovers at the Blaisdell Exhibition Hall for the the sixth annual Hawaii Ocean Expo.
The expo was inspired by a late night idea event founder Russ Inouye had. Growing up, the ocean was not only a part of his backyard, but a classroom as well. Inouye said Hawaii’s waters have taught him how to live off the land, enjoy it’s priceless moments and, most of all, how to protect it for future generations.
“I’ve always been a water person,” he said, “I’ve surfed, paddled, dived and fished all my life.”
Six years ago, the former club promoter contemplated why ocean-minded people like himself were not brought together to honor an important form of mother nature.
“There were fishing events and small things but no expo,” he said, “We are in Hawaii and I thought, ‘Why there isn’t an ocean expo?’ I knew I wasn’t the only one that thought these things.”
Soon after he established the expo, his ocean journey came full circle when he found out the owners of his childhood seafood eatery, He`eia Kea Pier General Store and Deli in Kaneohe, were approaching the end of their lease. The pier was not only a place that he frequented on a weekly basis for breakfast, but it was a place that had sentimental value to him.
“I was born and raised in Kaneohe. The pier was the place where I caught my first fish,” he said, “The owners were like family. They wanted to retire and I had told them that I was interested in taking over the lease.”
There is something new for the ladies at this year’s Hawaii Ocean Expo. The Mermaid Boutique will feature ocean-centric fashion vendors such as Honey Girl Water Ear, RocSea Creations and artist Kimi Werner. SeaLove, a mobile fashion “van-tique,” was inspired by a mobile boutique owner Cortney Thomas saw when she visited her hometown in Northern California.
“My sister and I were talking and saw this truck,” she said. “She and I walked out with merchandise and I thought to myself, ‘What a great idea — a bikini wagon in Hawaii.’”
With a passion for fashion and an MBA degree, Thomas said she always wanted to start her own business. She bought a Chevy G30 van she noticed on the side of the road and remodeled the entire interior, installing wood floors, wallpaper, a new ceiling, a new roof, a dressing room and clothing racks.
Thomas said her mobile boutique allows her to host private shopping parties and travel around the island, bringing personalized shopping to another level. Customers can find the truck via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. Full of beach-inspired women’s apparel, SeaLove offers items from unique designers from around the world.
SeaLove also carries pieces from local designers. The mobile boutique is the exclusive carrier of Paradiso, a swimsuit line from Kona. Paradiso is an eco-friendly, reversible and multi-purpose swimwear that can be used during a handful of activities such as yoga, running and swimming.
“It breathes really well and there is something for everyone with the Paradiso brand,” Thomas said.
SeaLove also carries fashion-forward Australian brand Three of Something, which speaks in bright colors and structural cuts. Thomas’ goal is to bring fashion pieces women will surely see and love — and can only be found in her van-tique.
With the beach being a big source of inspiration for the fashion she carries, she too has made efforts to help protect it.
“We are interested in ocean conservation, awareness, and keeping the beaches clean and healthy,” Thomas said. She carries items made out of recyclable materials and even has bags that are 100% vegan.
One of the most important aspects of the expo is educating the public on how to assure future generations that they will be able to enjoy the wonderful Hawaiian waters. Inouye said he has often heard from the older generation of how things used to be.
“You hear so many stories of the grandpas, uncles and kupuna saying, ‘Oh you know, back in the day we did this and that, the surf was like that and there were so many fish,’” he said.
“All of the ocean industries need to realize that we are really one industry. We all need to come together because the resources that we use, we are surrounded by it. We need to promote it but most of all take care of it together.”
If you are looking for ways to get into preserving our islands, you’ll find non-profits present at the expo teaching the public about environmental sustainability, beach clean-ups, ocean life and clean water campaigns. There will be tons of vendors showing off the latest ocean gear and electronics.
Another highlight of the expo will be the Surfboard Graveyard Swap Meet, a place for surfers to buy, sell and trade their used boards. A portion of the proceeds will go to benefit Na Kama Kai, a nonprofit organization that helps get our less fortunate keiki up and riding. The organization also hopes to bring 30 boards to Molokai to teach kids there how to surf.
Bring an appetite as well, because there will food vendors like Fresh Catch and a poke contest.
“When it comes to things like fishing, people need to realize that they can’t just always take and they need to let everything replenish,” Inouye said, “We all use the ocean and what we need to realize is how much the ocean really gives to us. It is our duty to thank it by giving back to it.”
This year’s expo runs from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Admission is $8, $5 for those 13 to 18 years old; keiki 12 and under are free.
Jermel-Lynn Quillopo is a multi-faceted, energetic individual with experience in both print and broadcast journalism. “Social Encore” aims to tell diverse stories about Hawaii’s food, events and people; share your tips with Jermel via email or follow her on Twitter.