Humans use their hands to communicate different things. A middle finger in the air while driving: anger, frustration. An index and middle finger in the air with the rest held together: peace. At a bar, peace could also mean two more beers please. Gangs use unique hand signs as monikers, so gang members can show to whom they pledge their allegiance. In the surf world, the definitive hand gesture is the shaka.
The shaka has contested origins. The most common story is that descendant of Hawaiian ali’i (chiefs), skilled waterman, and beloved community leader Hamana Kalili popularized the gesture as a result of unfortunate circumstances. While working at the Kahuku Sugar Mill, so the story goes, Hamana suffered an accident and lost his index, middle, and ring fingers. As a result he was reassigned to work as a security guard for the sugar cane railroad. Some say that Hamana would wave his hand when the train was clear to move, others say he would use it to wave kids off the tracks. Still others say the local kids used to test their luck by taking sugar canes off the train, but when Hamana was there he’d give them a hard time, so they developed a way to signal each other when Hamana was on guard.