Shaka Sign

“Hang loose,” “hang ten sign,” or “surfer sign” are all nicknames for the Shaka Sign.

~What it is~

Clench your middle three fingers, stick your thumb and pinky out like a tea time thumbs up, and shake your hand. It has multiple uses, such as for a greeting, showing feelings of relaxation, or pointing out something really gnarly.

“For the most part, the Shaka is a sign of Aloha, love and appreciation” – Jay DiMartino, Surfing/Bodyboarding Guide.

Simply put, it’s the Hand It version of saying: dude, hey, yes, awesome, come on, or this guyyy.

~How to Hand It~

Shaking a Shaka Sign is a great way to punctuate or accentuate any of these following situations:

  • Reminisce
    “Dude, remember watching Rocket Power. Such an amazing show.”
  • Show appreciation
    “Almost as amazing as your dance moves last night, those were next level.”
  • Apologize
    “Whoops, didn’t realize that was actually a seizure”
  • Coax a friend to hangout
    “I’ll make it up to you. I’m going to the movies, wanna come with?”
  • Promise bodaciousness
    “Okay then be that way. Sandra Burmeister’s having a party a few blocks down, should be pretty kickin. More Keystone than you can even handle. Let’s check it out.”

~When to Hand It~

Always appropriate when referring to surfing, sometimes appropriate when appreciating music from the 90s, and never appropriate when describing suits from the 80s. It’s a friendly gesture, so you’ll Hand It when meeting or leaving a friend, express content, show excitement for an upcoming event, or display appreciation for another person. Also, remember to keep the shaking to under a few seconds to avoid looking like a glitched robot assassin.

Obama Shaka


~How it Started~

There is much more ambiguity to how the gesture started than I originally expected. Like other forms of language, it’s probably near impossible to pinpoint where it started; it may have originated concurrently and independently throughout multiple locations.

Nevertheless, this sign is commonly associated with Hawaii. One of the more interesting stories is that a man named Hamana Kalili lost his middle three fingers in an accident, which gave his hand a distinct and permanent Shaka Sign. He had a job making sure kids didn’t board trains and he would use the wave to indicate that the trains were clear of these nothing-better-to-do children.

Years later, the sign was popularized by a used car salesman named “Lippy” Espinda who used the gesture and “shaka, brah!” as a signoff tag for his commercials. This also happened to mark the last occasion in which a local car commercial popularized anything.

~Around the World~

This sign is common in Brazil with a near-identical meaning.

In Chinese number gestures, the Shaka Sign is used for the number 6.

Face the Shaka forward, and you have yourself the letter Y in American Sign Language (manual alphabet).

In Russia, if you tilt the Shaka Sign and keep it stable, it resembles holding a beer mug and is an invitation to drink.

In Australia and New Zealand, it resembles smoking a pipe and is a way to invite someone to smoke marijuana.

In parts of the Caribbean, it may suggest a request for sex. The thumb points at the hopeful person and the pinky points at the shocked police officer.

(The last three came from Wikipedia without citations, so their validity is suspect)

Shaka~Hand It Challenges~

Use the Shaka next time you’re trying to convince a friend or friends to join you in an activity  First ask them without any gestures. If it doesn’t work, then ask them again while doing the Shaka sign. This will make the proposed event seem like a pretty rad time. If they happen to laugh at you, then just strike up a conversation about the Shaka sign while you slyly force them into your car to go to Sandra’s party.

DUAL WIELD (for true Hand It professionals)
Find a situation to successfully rock the Shaka sign on both hands at the same time.

That’s it for the Shaka Sign. It has been added to the Guide and you are now ready to ~Hand It~


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