Shaka: the surfers' sign | Illustration: Shutterstock

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 1960s, a new body gesture gained enthusiasts. Surfers from Hawaii started saluting fellow wave 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 got adopted by an increasing number of water sports enthusiasts, and the star system started doing too. And when the president of the United Stated of America sent Shakas, the trend conquered the world.

Shaka: surfers love it

But 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.

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