This is a sport to which the Basques have given their name and which have evolved to make it a true national sport! The Basque pelota is generally practiced on a fronton or a trinquet present in each village, near the church.
Born out of the Jeu de Paume that was very popular in the 16th century, the Basque pelota is a sport where two teams competed by returning a ball. This game was practiced first on the outside; It is the "longue paume". In order to play at any time, we built gambling dens, the "courte paume". The Basques have taken over these gambling dens, which have become the trinquets and the walls to the left covered today.
While the practice of the Jeu de Paume lost during the 17th century in France, it persists in the Basque Country and, over time, it is declined in many specialties. The famous wicker glove, the xistera date only from the 19th century.
It was in 1857 that Jean Dithurbide of Saint-Pée-sur-Nivelle fixed in his hand the basket of wicker that replaced the heavy leather gloves used until then to catch and return the balls. Lighter, the chistera allows to send the ball stronger, further and it tires less the arm. Very popular sport, Basque pelota will be exported via Basque emigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries, mainly in South America and Florida.
You can watch a game of pelota in most of the villages, whether it is a game of pala between friends or during the international Cesta-Punta Open in summer in the Jai Alai of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Vivacity, power and vista (quik look) will be on the program!
The tourist office of Saint-Jean-de-Luz organizes with Luzean initiations to the Basque pelota. You can also initiate yourself with Pilota Jo who travels throughout the Basque Country. You can also visit the ecomuseum of pelota and xistera where all the secrets of this sport are unveiled in a fun and enjoyable audioguided visit.
Each commune has a fronton on which you can easily try to play. Tip: If you do not have one, do not hesitate to ask the palas at the bar near the fronton!
Glossary of some Basque pelota specialties
La main nue : The oldest of the specialties. The ball is struck directly by the hand, slightly protected because the ball is very hard. This one is covered with leather and weighs about 95 grams. We play with both hands. It is the most noble specialty according to the purists. Played in a wall on the left by professionals in the Basque Country of Spain where, the parties are the subject of bets quite legal.
La cesta punta : One of the most spectacular. It is played with a great chistera; It is the fastest ball sport in the world (record: 306 km / h). It is played in large walls to the left covered, jai alai.
Le joko garbi :Literally the game clean. It is played with a smaller glove both in the outside, in the fronton, and in the wall on the left covered by 36 meters.
La paleta cuir : This specialty is very spectacular because the game is very fast. We use a wooden racket (paleta) of 600 grams. The pelota leather ball weighs about 53 grams.
La paleta gomme :The wooden racket weighs 400 grams, it allows to make a wide variety of effects. The ball of gum is lighter, 40 grams.
Le xare : Also known as the Argentinian racket, is a sort of curved wooden arch with spider-coated wire that allows the ball to be returned quickly.