The Shaka Sign: Origin Stories and Meanings

Ever wonder why people use certain hand gestures in photographs? I do. Remember when MySpace used to be the cool thing? People would snap photos while throwing up the peace sign. Another familiar hand gesture that is somewhat universal is the shaka sign. From surfers and skydivers to President Obama, the shaka sign has been used by many.

Around the (01:00) mark, Obama and his family can all be seen doing the shaka sign toward the Punahou School Marching Band & JROTC Color Guard at President Obama’s Inaugural Parade in 2009.

The history of the shaka sign is a bit ambiguous. Some say that it is Hawaiian in origin, and others say it has to do with earlier explorers using it as a symbol to have a drink. Whatever the origin is, each story is certainly interesting. Many say that the sign traces its roots back to Hawaiian surfer and beach culture. Some speculate that it exists as a result of local folk Hawaiian hero Hamana Kalili, who lost his fingers in a possible sugar mill accident.

The actual naming of the shaka sign took place during the 1960s by Lippy Espinda, a television host. He would use the shaka sign as his sign-off signature.

The meanings of the shaka sign are plentiful: “Hi,” “Thank you,” “Goodbye,” “Hang loose,” “Aloha,” “Hang ten,” “Right on,” and many more.

What hand signs do you use when you take selfies?