The notorious surfing hand signal that is now a worldwide symbol: the shaka! This sign is used as a way to express happiness, give encouragement, to say aloha, to show thanks, hang loose, or to mutually share an awesome moment with someone else! We have seen this evolve into aspects of surfing and even in our culture’s language, art work, memorabilia, famous movies, and it has even been seen used by the president!
Ever wonder how this universal sign came about?
It all started in Hawaii, in fact we can pin-point by whom! Hamana Kalili of Laie is the man acclaimed for the history of the shaka. It is told that Kalili used to work in a sugar mill and surrendered his three center fingers to a machine while working in the factory. After his accident, he took up a job as a sugar cane train guard. While working, he would make sure that rebellious kids would not hop into the carts of the transporting trains to get free rides. As a way of communicating an O.K., the kids would imitate Kalili by holding out their thumb and pinky. When they saw that gesture, it would mean “all-clear” and they could hop onto the trains!
Ironically because of Kalili, who likely didn’t realize his influence, the shaka has evolved to become a famous hand gesture! This pure stoke sign is something that becomes a natural habit if used enough. For some though it is foreign concept
We love to encourage all of our campers and clients at WB Surf Camp to utilize this sign. Not just while in the ocean, but in all aspects of life. Most of our campers come to camp not even knowing the meaning of the sign, some even mistaking it with the “Rock-On!” sign (ring finger, middle finger, and thumb down) or the “Love” sign (middle and ring finger down).
We can all agree it’s a stellar feeling popping up on a wave. When that is combined with glancing back to the floating crowd in the water seeing shakas thrown high, your adrenaline is pouring and nothing can take your smile away- the shaka you’re holding up explains it all!
With the holiday season in full swing, make sure you are tossing up your shaka and spreading some love to those around you!