Shaka: surfers love it

The Shaka sign is the famous surfers' hand gesture. The story of the popular sign goes back to the roots of Hawaiian culture.

When the surf culture grew and spread through California and America, during the sunny 1960's, a new body gesture was gaining enthusiasts. Surfers from Hawaii started saluting fellow riders and friends with an original hand sign.

Shaka is physically made by extending the thumb and smallest finger while holding the three middle fingers curled into the palm of the hand. Surfers loved it, and before long, the original Shaka from Hawaii had an alternative nickname: Hang Loose.

The surf sign prevailed and expanded into Europe, Oceania, Asia and Africa. The Shaka gesture was seen in more and more water sports - even in the celebrity circus. When the president of the USA sends Shakas, the hype is universal.

What's the real meaning of Shaka? In fact it can mean many positive things. "Hi," "Thank You," "All Right," "See You," "Peace," "Goodbye," "Take Care," and "Chill Out" are some of the daily reasons for delivering Shakas.

Interestingly, the surfers' official salutation has a few different meanings in various countries. In China, it means "six", and in Russia, a similar gesture can be an invitation to drink a beer. In some Caribbean islands, it may suggest sexual contact.

Polynesian researchers now know that the word "Shaka" is not of Hawaiian origins. The strongest clue to its origin refers to Hamana Kalili of Laie (June 18, 1882 - December 17, 1958), a Hawaiian fisherman from the town of Laie who lost three middle fingers from his right hand during an accident at the old Kahuku Sugar Mill.

Because he could no longer work in the mill, Hamana became a security guard on the sugar train that used to travel between Sunset Beach and Kaaawa.

Apparently, he was always trying to keep kids off of the train; they would jump on and ride from town to town. To communicate that Hamana was not looking and that the way was clear, the kids started signaling each other with their hands, mocking the missing fingers.