The Origins of the Shaka Sign

Supa Shaka by Frank DeLima

By AnnaMaria Preston, Ed.D.

When I was growing up in Hawaii, the shaka sign was used all the time but I never had any idea from where the sign originated. It is not only a sign but a sign with a definition, with meaning. Depending on how the sign was ‘given’, whether waving or a straight pump down in front of the belly, it meant something.

I remember being told by an old family friend who was Chinese-Hawaiian, that the origins of the sign actually related to the Hawaiian Migration Theory. He stated that the shaka sign was a navigation tool. While in their canoes sailing the vast the Pacific Ocean, the Polynesians held up their right hand high above their head, made the shaka sign with the thumb being their current location and the pinky finger would be focused on the brightest star (the Southern Cross) to guide their canoes to the Hawaiian Islands.

Could this be possible? I don’t know, but I choose to believe it true


Melvin Ah Ching is a photographer, consultant, blogger, desktop publisher, and computer enthusiast living and working in Hawaii. The Hawaii Files have been online since 2006.