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Many of us know or at least have seen the “shaka” sign, a friendly hand gesture commonly used by surfers, BYU fans and many islanders from Hawaii. The gesture seen above is wildly known but what is less known is the LDS origin of the sign.
Hamana Kalili of Laie, who lost the middle three fingers on his right hand during an accident at the old Kahuku Sugar Mill is attributed to the origin of the “Shaka” sign itself, while not necessarily the slogan “shaka” itself.
Kalili’s grandnephew Vonn Logan, mentioned in an interview that “Tutu Hamana was a community leader and also the choir director at the Mormon Church in Laie. That was another place that people saw (the gesture) — he directed the choir that way and was famous for that.”
He was also the “mo’i” of the festivities at the famed “hukilau” that was held each year as a fundraising activity for the church. Most people that don’t have history in the Hawaii Islands don’t realize how big of a deal the hukilau was but during it’s peak, it was a hug community event. The hukilau helped fund Church building efforts and inspired today’s shows and luaus at the Polynesian Cultural Center and for which the “Hukilau Marketplace” is named after.
So whether it was as a choir director, as a security guard on the sugar train or as “mo’i” during the “hukilau”, many natives, visitors and surfers were exposed to the sign and the popularity grew from there.
As for the actual phrase “shaka”, it seems to have been popularized by the former used car pitchman and TV personality David “Lippy” Espinda as he would be signing off his commercials with “shaka, brah!”
So the next time you see the “shaka” sign, know that its origins stem from a humble LDS fisherman named Hamana Kalili.