Ask the Big Kahuna
“Answering the most common visitor questions”
My friend, who passed away recently, and who lived in Hawaii for a number of years, always liked to give the “hello/goodbye” hand signal with his thumb and small finger horizontal. Is there a name for this sign and how it came to be?
Al, Alberta Canada
The hand signal you ask about is called the “shaka” (not to be confused with the Zulu warrior of the same name).
The shaka sign is a gesture of greeting. It is associated with Hawaii and surfers (also other boarding sports like skateboarding and snowboarding). To make the sign, extend your thumb and pinky finger while keeping the three middle fingers curled. You then raise your hand in salutation with your fingers facing you. For emphasis, you can wiggle your hand back and forth.
Some of the many meanings of the shaka hand sign are, “hello,” “goodbye,” “cool,” “okay,” “see you later,” and “take care.”
The shaka sign was used as a campaign signal by Frank Fasi, a populist Honolulu politician of the 1970s and 1980s. Fasi was a territorial senator and the longest-serving mayor of Honolulu (1969 to 1981).
Now that you know, you can raise your hand towards heaven (lani), and send a shaka greeting to your friend who has passed on.
Mahalo for your question,