“Shaka” or “Shaka, brah!” Maybe you’ve heards this expression. Maybe you uttered those words in earnest salutation or ironically. Maybe you’re a core surfer living on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii, and these words are you go-to, standard form of salutation.
In any case, the word “shaka” and it’s utterance are but only part of the communication protocol. Those words are said with an accompanying hand gesture that might be more familiar to many reader than the words.
The shaka hand gesture, at one time graphically and symbolically associated with the clothing brand Hang Loose, is similar to the “devil horns” gesture associated with heavy metal music. With the shaka, the pinky finger and thumb are extended outward from the palm while the index, middle and rings fingers are bend down into the palm.
With fingers configuration as such, the hand is then, like a wave raised or extended and often given a little back and forth wiggle or shake, a motion functioning like a wave of the hand to emphasize and visibly highlight the message to its intended audience.
The gesture is one of positivity. Both loved and loathed by surfers, it is undeniably part of surf culture and has its cultural origins in the birthplace of modern surfing: Hawaii.
But culture and its symbols evolve and change. The shaka in the pic above is part of a two-page graphical spread in the zine Can’t Steal Our Vibe that show the gesture altered as a mash-up with the standard “f*ck you!” middle finger gesture. The extended pinky of the shaka is pulled in, and the middle finger is extended. On first try, it’s not an easy gesture to make fluidly, compared to the shaka. But no matter. Its what the gesture means that’s important here. What does it mean? That’s the beauty of it: For now it’s subject to intepretation. And if the creators have a denotation for it, its esoteric.
We love that the “F-You-Shaka” hybrid brings together the insouciance, anger and insult of the middle finger with the friendly, laidback “everyone’s a bro” vibe of the trad shaka. These are opposing sentiments and may confuse. The mashiup, we think, is more ironic and capture even more the contemporary core of surf culture: Its rebel semiotics and its knowing cues and tribal codes.
Can’t Steal Our Vibe is a zine published by Lone Wolkfs (sic), a surf brand and shop in Venice, Los Angeles, that uses the new “F-You-Shaka” as a kind of logo on stickers. The title of the zine is taken from a graffiit-like, spray-painted message written on a panel that covered a door that had been shattered in an attempted burglary at Lone Wolfs in 2016.