Tap to Read ➤

History and Meaning of the Shaka (Hang Loose) Sign

Payal Kanjwani
The shaka sign in Hawaiian culture is a simple yet powerful way to silently say that "we're there for you" on the islands and spread the spirit of Aloha among people. Here we have given the origin and history of this amazing gesture by explaining its meaning.
Barack Obama was seen flashing the Shaka sign to express his affection towards the marching band of Honolulu's Punahou School during his inauguration parade.
Body language, such as hand gestures, is a non-verbal mode of communication that expresses our needs and thoughts without uttering words. One such popular hand gesture is the Shaka sign. From surfers and skateboarders to kids and news reporters, the Shaka sign is a universal proposition on the islands. But non-island dwellers can rarely guess its meaning.
This hand gesture calls for folding the middle fingers of hand, while extending the thumb and the pinky finger, and presenting the back or front of the hand, moving it in a back and forth fashion. In textual language, the Shaka sign is posed as \.../, \, / and \m/. Let's do a brush up on its origin and learn how to make a Shaka.

Shaka Sign: Origin

Shaka Sign: Origin

● One of the oldest origin stories talk about the Spanish immigrants who'd landed on the Hawaiian Islands. On meeting their natives in Hawaii, the Spaniards offered to share a drink as a friendly gesture; they folded their three middle fingers as if mimicking a bottle, and their thumbs to their lips.
This was thought to be the way Spanish greet, which ended up in creating a sign language used between the two groups.
● Another story links it to Hamana Kalili of Laie, who'd lost the three middle fingers while working on a sugar mill. A variation to this says he was knocked by a shark's attack while he was catching fish. The local lore credits him for spreading the wave of Shaka, which started with kids imitating the hand gesture.
● People also believe it to be originated from the late Lippy Espinda, an entertainer and a car salesman, who would throw up the Shaka gesture during television ads in the 60s and 70s. This had become a hit among the locals with his catchphrase "Shaka Bradah!"

Shaka Sign: Meaning

● For the most part, Hawaiians use the Shaka sign to convey Aloha, spiriting a feeling of love, friendship, compassion, and appreciation. For Hawaiian inhabitants, it's like something that has always been like a thumbs-up.
● To be symbolically legit, this gesture is associated to surfing and is used by surfers mapping the shape of hand to the strength of wave moving from peaks to valleys in an harmonious manner. In American sign language, it is the sign related to surfing. It is also linked with the Taoist concept of going with the flow (we Wei).
● It is used to wave a "Hello", "Was-sup", "All the best", "Alright", "Everything will be fine", "Take it easy", "Chill", "Take care", and the most popular interpretation, "Hang loose." It just spreads a happy and empathetic wave of things going on the right track, and that there's no room for worry. In California, the Shaka means 'Han ten" or "Hang loose."

How to Make a Shaka

1. With either hand, make a loose fist.

2. Keeping the middle fingers curled inwards, extend the pinky and thumb.
3. Time to shake your hand lightly, as if drawing an invisible 'j' in the air, or moving it back and forth.

4. Shake that Shaka with a smile, and you're pro at communicating like Hawaiians.
Thus, we have seen that the Shaka is more than just a gesture. It signifies a solidarity feeling, an attitude that says 'we belong to each other, we are the same'. Spread positive reinforcement by delivering a Shaka to whoever you meet.