Within the realm of surfer sign language, nothing says aloha more than the infamous shaka! Born and bred out of the islands, the shaka is all about perpetuating good vibes, mutual respect, and being stoked. Consisting of nothing more than an outstretched thumb and pinky with the three middle fingers folded into the palm (try look), the shaka is an indelible fixture within the indigenous Hawaiian culture. Used regularly by Hawaiian locals as a warm greeting or whenever a driver is allowed to pass another (unlike the Mainlander Haole), the shaka is chock full of “hang loose” island stylie living. Its origins are sketchy at best but like many far-fetched fish stories the shaka has its very own fanciful fairy tale (see history).
Back on “Da Mainland”, the shaka loses a bit of it’s aloha spirit. While it is well known and used by surfers it generally maintains a different context than is found in the Islands. Much like the hokey nature of puka shells and $1 touristy postcards, the shaka is more a novelty item reserved for cornball hand gestures in late night photo opps (in addition to Westside & other assorted gang references) or on surf trips to add spice to yet another picture of you in front of a palm tree. It can also be seen being used in loose reference to Turtle’s epic “shaka-kadda-fadda-braddah” montage in the final scene of the classic Rick Kane surf saga – North Shore. Unfortunately for haole surfers, to take the shaka seriously is setting oneself up to look like a major Wilbur. It’s one of those subtle cultural nuances that cannot easily be bridged (much like white people trying to rap). Nonetheless, whether you’re the “The Kanaka Maoli” (indigenous Hawaiian) or just some haole to the max surfer, the shaka is a solid addition to any surfers’ sign language repertoire. Use it sparingly amongst your daily “fist bumping” and secret club handshake greetings. Shaka Brah!!