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Hang Loose in Hawaii – Spreading Aloha With the Shaka

ShakaEven those who’ve never been on a Hawaiian vacation are familiar with the “Shaka”. Not everyone knows its official name but the “hang loose”, or “surfer” sign has become synonymous with Hawaii over the years.

The “Shaka” sign is made by making a fist, extending both the pinky and thumb, and then giving the hand just the slightest of shakes.  Although it is most often associated with surf culture around the world, the true meaning of the “Shaka” runs much deeper.

Here in Hawaii, the “Shaka” represents many things and you will often see it used as a greeting or to signal praise or gratitude. In addition to these though, the true meaning of the “Shaka” is much more meaningful. In a nutshell, the “Shaka” is the non-verbal embodiment of the sprirt of Hawaii. Also known as the Aloha spirit, the spirit of Hawaii is an interconnectedness. It is the essence of love, peace and acceptance.

There’s no doubt that you’ll see the “shaka” everywhere in Hawaii, and the stories surrounding its origins are many. One legend attributes it to Hamana Kalili. Hamana lost some of his fingers in an accident at a local sugar mill and was subsequently given the responsibility of monitoring the sugar train. The “Shaka” symbol was his way of giving the all-clear that there were no train jumpers on-board. Another tale attributes the Shaka to the Spaniards who visited Hawaii and used the gesture to symbolize the sharing of a drink when communicating with the natives.

While the symbol’s true roots may remain a bit of a mystery, its meaning is well established. Here in Hawaii, we take our Aloha Spirit very seriously, and the “Shaka” symbol is just one of the many ways we share it with each other and with those who visit our beautiful state.