The Meaning and Origin of Shaka: The Surf Salute

As surfers, we all know and love the Shaka – the hand gesture that has become synonymous with the sport and its laid-back lifestyle. But what is the meaning behind this iconic symbol, and where did it originate? In this article, we’ll explore the various theories and legends surrounding the Shaka, and delve into its importance not only in surfing but in other aspects of life.

What is the Shaka?

The Shaka is a hand gesture that involves extending the thumb and little finger while curling the three middle fingers into a fist. The gesture is typically accompanied by a friendly smile and is used as a greeting or expression of goodwill. While it is most commonly associated with surfing culture, the Shaka has found its way into other sports and everyday life, from football players celebrating a goal to politicians meeting their constituents.

The Origin of the Shaka

The origin of the Shaka is somewhat shrouded in mystery, with several competing theories about its beginnings. One popular legend attributes the gesture to a Hawaiian waterman named Hamana Kalili, who lost his middle fingers in a workplace accident. Unable to make the traditional Hawaiian hand gesture, he came up with the Shaka as a substitute, and it soon caught on among his peers.

Another theory suggests that the Shaka has its roots in Chinese culture, where it was used as a way to count to six using only one hand. Chinese traders in Polynesia may have introduced the gesture to Hawaiian locals, who eventually adopted it as a greeting. Yet another possibility is that the Shaka evolved from the practice of holding up a hand to shield one’s eyes from the sun, with the thumb and little finger extended to mimic the shape of a wave.

Despite the lack of a definitive answer, what is clear is that the Shaka has become an important part of Hawaiian and surf culture. It embodies the spirit of aloha – a sense of warmth, kindness, and hospitality – and is a way for people to connect with one another in a friendly and positive way.

Using the Shaka

To make the Shaka, simply make a fist and extend your thumb and little finger in opposite directions. The back of your hand should be facing the person you are greeting, and you can accompany the gesture with a friendly smile or a verbal greeting like “Aloha” or “Hey, brah!”.

Whether you’re a surfer, a football fan, or just someone who appreciates the laid-back vibe of the Shaka, it’s a great way to spread positivity and goodwill. So next time you’re out catching waves or celebrating a big win, don’t forget to give a friendly Shaka to those around you.


The Shaka is a simple yet powerful symbol that has become an integral part of surf and Hawaiian culture. While its origins may be unclear, its message of positivity and goodwill is universal. Whether you’re on the beach, in the boardroom, or anywhere in between, the Shaka is a great way to connect with others and spread some aloha spirit. So go ahead and give it a try – you might be surprised at how much joy it can bring!

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