Writer, Surfer
This is the shaka!

Shak-a-tack! Photo: The Inertia

The Inertia

Can I shock you? I have never, ever, ever “thrown a shaka”. I may inadvertently have made a similar gesture whilst communicating silently that I was on the phone, or that someone had to take a phone call. But as a greeting, an acknowledgment, or a surf thing at all – no way. In my eyes, the shaka is as cringe-worthy as it gets.

I understand that this might be appalling to some of you. You might question your own loose shaka practices. But don’t worry about it. I’m sure that in your worlds of boardies and sunshine spreading your thumb and pinkie finger whilst folding down your other fingers and waggling your hand about seems perfectly reasonable. But over here (in the cold, pissing wet UK) if you did that, in earnest, it would likely be perceived as a sign of mental impairment. Or, at the very least, the ultimate symbol of kookery.

Surfing’s a bit different in my world. I’ve also got an issue with the word “kook,” despite having just used it. I think it’s pretty kooky. But that’s a tangent for another day. Using surf slang is cheesy. (I might have said “corny,” but even that’s too Americanized and weird for me).

In my eyes, the humble shaka is a mortification of “surf culture.” It is a gesture reserved for whitewater fumblers. And now, apparently, British male club goers.


A recent article on ever-so-trendy-and-cutting-edge yoof blog The Tab asks “What the hell is this ‘Shaka’ pose and why is every guy in every nightclub doing it?”

Good question.

How did our cringey little surf quirk filter into the mainstream? Who is responsible?

Is it perhaps Laird? That traverser of culture, whom Zach recently grilled about how the shaka should be approached?

Could it be Jordy? He of the outrageous claims, who recently threw down the double shaka at Trestles. (A claim that lay somewhere between primordial beast and pure sexual gratification).

But it does seem unlikely that either Jordy or Laird (yes, even Laird) would have a chunky digit in the sleazy pie of UK yoof club culture.

No, it’s more likely to be a latent tribute to ex-West Ham goalkeeper Shaka Hislop. Or maybe Obama’s shaka heard round the world?

So, apart from West Ham goalies and American politics, what even is a “shaka?” I’ve seen many, but I still don’t think I understand it, even despite Mr. Dylan Heyden’s venture down that rabbit hole. When surfers here “throw shakas” I am inclined to hide, red-faced with vicarious embarrassment. It’s likely these shaka peddlers will have GoPro mounts on the noses of their Hyptos. They will talk earnestly in car parks about “volume calculators,” Magic Seaweed star ratings, and podcasts. Some of them will wear beaded necklaces and shark’s teeth, bought from market stalls in Tenerife.

But I suppose one might expect confused gestures from confused people. The shaka certainly appears to be contentious.

In an attempt to clear up some of the confusion, different approaches to the shaka were clarified recently in an article by Hawaii Magazine. This isn’t a magazine I’m familiar with, but I can only presume from the title that it is the preeminent voice of the Hawaiian people.

And the Hawaiian people in the comment section of the original article I mentioned sure seem to be proud/confused/angry about their shakas. It’s a right larf. Lots of people claiming to be Hawaiian claiming to know the where, when, what and why of the shaka.

From what I can gather from The People™ commenting on the article, a “shaka” is one, all, or some of the following things:

A mockery of a disabled man waving.

A shocking and completely unacceptable cultural appropriation.

Something to do with Brazillian Ju Jitsu (Perhaps, “Do you mind if I put my thumb in your ass on the next roll?”)

An example of “Haole outsiders” stealing from Hawaiians (again).

“A signal for gay men to let straight men know that they do bareback.” – Extracted verbatim from aforementioned comment string.

So I’m really no closer to understanding what a shaka really means. And I’m still pretty sure I won’t be doing one anytime soon. Not unless I want to take the piss out of a disabled person. Or maybe if someone’s in a meeting and they need to take an urgent bareback phonecall.

And then there’s this to ponder as well..

Join The Inertia Family 

Only the best. We promise.