Shaka my friend Shaka

 Hang Loose

Okay, so I was walking in downtown Papeete, Tahiti recently and I saw this colorful poster. No, this isn’t the beginning of a joke, I really was. The poster was plastered to a wall of a rundown building next to the hotel I was staying in. The weirdness of it captured my eye and I thought this would make a good picture, so I took the shot.

Shaka, Hang Loose

Later when going through the photos I had taken, I wondered about the hand gesture in the picture above. While I have seen it given many times before and received it a few times personally, I never really knew exactly what it meant. And yeah, I’ve been around awhile. Was this just another way to tell someone to F-off or did it mean something else a bit more benign, even friendly?

So I asked around about the meaning and much to my surprise and satisfaction I was not the only one who was so socially and culturally ignorant. A lot of people didn’t know what the hand sign meant

But then someone did, telling me it means “hang loose” everyone knows that, sneering at me like I was some kind of brainless social outcast.

Really? Hang Loose? That’s it? Uhhhh Cool.

So, if you are cooler or smarter than me you probably already know that the hand gesture is also called the Shaka sign. If that is the case you don’t have to read any further. If you’re not smarter or cooler than me, read on.

The story of this popular sign goes back to the roots of Hawaiian culture and for many it is a common surfer gesture.

When the Hawaiian surfing culture started growing and spreading throughout California and America during the 1960’s the new hand gesture, the Shaka, started gaining popularity. Surfers from everywhere started saying hello by saluting fellow riders and friends with the new hand sign and it caught on like wildfire.

The Shaka

Shaka, hang loose

Photo Courtesy of

The Shaka sign is made by extending the thumb and the little finger while holding the three middle fingers curled into the palm of the hand. As more and more surfers adopted the sign the original Shaka from Hawaii began to have other meanings, such as “Hang Loose”.

The popularity of Shaka has grown into Europe, North and South America, Asia and Africa. The Shaka sign is also used by more and more water sports enthusiasts and now is seen by most as a universal gesture of good will.

The sign is also is used by the American hang gliding culture, most likely due to the simultaneous rise of surfing and hang gliding in California in the 1960s and 70s.

What’s the real meaning of Shaka? Well, it is really up to the user and the context of the situation. However it can mean many positive things. like “Hi,” “Thank You,” “All Right,” “See You,” “Peace,” “Goodbye,” “Take Care,” and “Very Cool”.

Don’t Worry – Be Happy

But I think “Hang Loose” really says it all.  And what is my definition of Hang Loose? My definition of is this, dream big, explore new horizons, be grateful and most of all, don’t worry, be happy. And never forget tomorrow brings each of us another day to live and to learn how to live an adventurous life.

So, Shaka my friend, Shaka. Life is too short to have it any other way.

Nicolas Hale

P.S. If anyone knows the name of the artist who created the poster please let me know. I think they may have a gallery in Papeete, Tahiti.

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