Whether surfing in Hawaii or elsewhere, you are likely to encounter the famous Hawaiian hand sign. This hand sign became surfers' official salutation or sign not only in Hawaii but around the world. If you are becoming a surfer, you should be acquainted with this hand gesture so that you will know how to react. Keep reading to find out more about the meanings and origin of this interesting hand gesture.

Hawaiian Hand Sign

What is the Hawaiian Hand Sign?

The hand sign used by locals on the islands is also known as the "Shaka" hand gesture. It is a friendly gesture with which Hawaiians salute each other, be it cashiers, kids, or news reporters. You do the Shaka by extending the thumb and the smallest finger while keeping the middle three fingers folded in. The gesture also has the nickname "Hang Loose." Shaka is an embodiment of the local aloha culture, signaling everything is all right. When in Hawaii, there is no need to worry or rush. This is why Shaka is especially popular with surfers who use this hand gesture whenever they can with fellow riders and other friends.

What Does the Hawaiian Hand Gesture Mean?

The Shaka hand gesture can literally mean "hang loose" or "right on," but it can also express many other things. Surfers may do it to say any of the following:
* Hello
* Goodbye
* Thank you
* Take care
* Peace
* All right
* See you
* Chill

When did the Hawaiian Hand Sign Become Popular?

It was during the 1960s that the Hawaiian hand sign started growing roots and becoming famous. During these years, the surfing culture was growing strong throughout the U.S., especially in California. Surfers had a lot to do with popularizing the sign. "Shaka" quickly gained popularity and began spreading to other countries and continents, including Europe, Asia, Africa, and the tropical islands of the South Pacific. People outside surfing started using it, too, such as celebrities and those practicing other water sports.

What is the Story Behind the Hawaiian Hand Sign?

Researchers most often reference a man called Hamana Kalili of Laie, a fisherman from the town of Laie. He lost his three middle fingers in an accident at the mill where he worked. Because he could no longer work at the mill, he became a security guard on a train. From there, the story has two versions. One says that he would always try to keep kids off the train to prevent them from getting free rides. These kids started signaling each other that the air was clear with the gesture that later became the surfer's official hand sign. The second version of the story says that the man himself tried to wave the kids away with the hand that was missing the three middle fingers. Another story says that the gesture was born when one of the first surfers in Hawaii raised his hand out of the water after he had his three middle fingers bitten off by a shark.

Don't be surprised if a fellow surfer throws you the "Shaka" hand sign when you're out there waiting for the swell or after you have politely allowed him or her to take the wave. It is a good thing. You are probably being saluted or thanked. Adapt the habit so that the next time you see somebody paddling next to you, you can say "Hi" in the surfers' way and embrace the spirit of the Hawaiian aloha culture.