Shaka sign – a surfers´ greeting

agosto 26, 2021

We are sure you have seen it so many times… Surfers with happy faces after catching some nice waves meet other surfers on the beach. Instead of saying hello, they curl their three middle fingers and extend their thumbs with their little fingers. And be honest, if you would go through your surfing pictures, you would probably find yourself posing like that, as well. You may know that the name of this sign is “shaka”, but have you ever heard about its history and its meaning? If not, keep reading…

The shaka sign is probably the most famous gesture among surfers. This way, they express positive emotions and send positive messages to other surfers. “Hang loose”, “Take it easy”, “Things are great”, “Thank you”, “Right on”, “Hi”, “Take care” – these are just a few of the possible translations of this optimistic vibe. So there is no doubt that this is a gesture of friendly intent! It is not only associated with surfers´ culture, but also with the culture of Hawaii.

How did it all begin

Now, let´s talk about its history a little. If you have wondered for a long time why the shaka sign looks the way it looks, let us tell you a little story. Once upon a time, in the early 1900s, there was one Hawaiian fisherman. His name was Hamama Kalili and he was from the town of Laie. Even though he loved fishing, one day he decided to start working for a sugar cane company called Kahuku Sugar Mill. Every day he went there and fed the sugar cane through the rollers to squeeze the juice out of it. But once an accident happened. His right hand got caught in the rollers and his three middle fingers were smashed. With an injury like that, he could not work as a presser anymore, but the company offered him a job in a different position. Hamama became a security officer for the train that used to carry the sugar cane from Sunset Beach to Kaaawa. One of his responsibilities there was to keep the children away from the train. Every time he had seen a kid running towards the train to try to jump on it and enjoy the joyrides, he started to scream and wave his hands in an effort to stop them. But imagine a man waving his right hand without 3 middle fingers – does that remind you of something? Well, to finish the story, the kids quickly started to extend their thumbs with their little fingers forming a sign, which they used as a signal or a warning towards each other, that Hamama is nowhere to be seen and they can enjoy their dangerous activity. And this is how the shaka sign was born…

After that, the gesture was quickly spread across Hawaii and surfers adopted it as their way of expressing positive vibes. With the surfing sport extending into various parts of the world, the shaka sign started to be used not only in America but also in Europe, Asia, Africa, or Oceania. And when Barack Obama started to use this signal, no one could stop shaka from becoming a world trend!

So all that we have left to say is this:

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