Do you think the shaka is overused? Is it foolhardy to attempt?
Is the ‘Shaka’ overused? It really seems that every photo of every kook, pro, board shaper, artist, musician, 5 year old or 50 year old has a Shaka in it. Whether they are in Hawaii, San Clemente, Mt Hood, NYC, Maine or Florida, there is a Shaka. Fuck I am sick of them, never had a use for them and felt odd if I ever used one. Not from Hawaii, not a Hawaiian. What is the history of the Shaka anyways?
Shaka Hatin’ Haole Boy
Dear Rory says: Yep, the shaka can be pretty goony. Especially when you’re posing for a photo. It’s like Japanese people always throwing out the split finger “peace” sign. What’s up with that? Looks so awkward and lame.
A few years ago, when the in-laws came to visit, they got hammered on vodka and asked me to teach them how to throw a proper shaka. If I were a kind man I’d’ve said, “You just don’t. It looks stupid. Like a transplant trying to talk pidgin you just end up demonstrating how clueless you are.”
“Ho, brah! We go dakine holo holo! Shootz!”
But I’m not a kind man, so I explained how there are many different types of shakas. Like the myriad bows within various Asian cultures.
Of course, certain Asian cultures discourage Westerners trying to bow. In Thailand I was told I shouldn’t even attempt it. It was more likely I’d come across as disrespectful than friendly.
I explained to the family that the proper pronunciation of shaka is in fact, shuh- CAW. Like a crow. Your hand should be displayed palm forward, and lifted above your head. The further you extend your hand above your head, the more respect you are showing.
I find myself throwing shakas when someone lets me merge into traffic, or if I see a friend driving past. Just something I unintentionally picked up. Like saying manini and shootz. Probably doesn’t make me look super rad, but I don’t really do it on purpose.
It was an amusing week. A lucid crew would’ve figured out fairly quickly I was fucking with them. But they were hammering down two handles of the aforemention booze every single day for the duration of their stay. I was relatively impressed they were able to remain upright and ambulatory, but their critical thinking skills were sorely lacking.
“Shuh- CAW, guys!”
Like any mannerism, it only works if it’s a unconscious thing. I find myself throwing shakas when someone lets me merge into traffic, or if I see a friend driving past. Just something I unintentionally picked up. Like saying manini and shootz. Probably doesn’t make me look super rad, but I don’t really do it on purpose.
As far as the history of the shaka… I have no fucking clue. The story they tell tourists is that it means “hand your net loosely.” Supposedly has something to do with laying nets for crabs.
But I don’t think that’s really true. Hawaiian cultural immersion attempts typically fall pretty flat. Like going to the Polynesian Cultural Center and realizing the majority of its staff are Mormon transplant college students whose religion tried damn hard to destroy the very culture they now exploit for profit.
The Star Bulletin has a different origin story. It seems as likely as any other.
But as to its origins, the prevailing local lore is that it originated with Hamana Kalili of Laie, who lost the middle three fingers on his right hand during an accident at the old Kahuku Sugar Mill.
Kalili’s grandnephew Vonn Logan, who works for Brigham Young University-Hawaii’s Department of Continuing Education, explained that Kalili’s job was to feed sugar cane into the rollers, which would squeeze out the juice. He lost his fingers when his hand got caught in the rollers, Logan said. Because he could no longer work in the mill, he became a security guard on the sugar train that used to travel between Sunset Beach and Kaaawa.
“One of his jobs was to keep all the kids off the train,” Logan said. “All the kids would try to jump the train to ride from town to town. So they started signaling each other. Since (Kalili) lost his fingers, the perfect signal was what we have now as the ‘shaka sign.’ That’s how you signaled the way was clear.”
I think the problem with the shaka comes down to the fact that, while it’s cool to appreciate a foreign culture, it’s downright foolhardy to attempt to emulate it. We are who we are, and you don’t make it into adulthood without being served a hefty pile of indoctrination. Damn hard to break those habits. Takes a hell of a lot longer than a typical vacation to go native.
And, like the internet’s weeaboo population has demonstrated time and again, being infatuated with a culture does not make you a part of it.
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