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I grew up far from the ocean, yet I am very resistant to motion sickness. I believe it was because of the extreme amount of time I spent swinging on a swing, or spinning on a merry go round. When I was a kid these were both common playground items, now they are rare.
Maybe instead of "throwing him into the deep end", You find activities, non ocean related that develop inner ear strength.
The smell could be a trigger, (fishy smell?), but the "cure" will most likely be exposure to motion in small doses until he gets used to it.
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