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The Inertia

The shaka. So simple, yet so complex. So absolutely essential to everything we know, love, and associate with surfing. Nothing says, “Hey, we’re friends! I’m happy. All good!” quite like a shaka. Barack Obama and Britney Spears agree. It’s one of those unmistakeable visual gestures that invites good vibes.

But, man, is it important to throw one correctly. There is nuance in the shaka. Fingers too taut, too wide apart, and it could very well lead to contempt. In fact, an entire (and very entertaining) Instagram subgenre has formed around this kind of thing: Haole Shaka. It’s good. One can only hope to appear on Haole Shaka before his/her days are numbered.

The proper shaka, as Kelly Slater told us, depends on context. On the North Shore, the shaka should be thrown more casually, he says. Just drop the ‘tree middle fingers on a shelf. Just leave it there. Kai Lenny calls it the Hawaiian fingerprint. No two are alike.

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Because the shaka is such a gorgeous mystery, we decided to ask the world’s best surfers how they throw ’em. And we went straight to the top. Kelly Slater, John John Florence, Stephanie Gilmore, Bruce Irons, Mason Ho, Alana Blanchard, Lyndie Irons, Kai Lenny, Coco Ho, Ian Walsh, Carissa Moore, Makua Rothman, Tyler Wright, Bede Durbide, Jack Freestone, Felicity Palmateer…you name it, they told us how to throw a shaka.

So see above, then let those three fingers just sit there. Shaka, brah.

Kelly Slater and Alana Blanchard, two experts in the field, weigh in on the great shaka debate.

Kelly Slater and Alana Blanchard, two experts in the field, weigh in on the great shaka debate.

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