Monday, 4 August 2008

Pelote in St Jean de la Luz, Basque France

Played primarily in the Basque regions of far south western France, the most extreme forms of pelote look like squash as played by those with a death wish.
To reduce it to the simplest level, pelote involves hurling a tightly-wound ball against the wall, hoping to do it so well that the opposition cannot return fire. Given that the ball can be travelling at speeds of up to 180mph, it’s a wonder that anyone would want to try and get it back.
That the sport has not really ventured for out of southern France and northern Spain comes as no great surprise. There are many versions of the game, played with different instruments, ranging from the bare hand to frightening basket-like Chistera, which can send the ball hurtling at very painful speeds indeed.
While the courts can be found in just about every town in the area, they are of varying size, ranging from 30m to 80m. The major hub of pelote activity is in St Jean De Luz, a fishing port south of Biarritz, and most competitive matches of a good standard are played here at International Arena Jaï Alaï during the summer months.
The truly brave/ barking mad can hire equipment to try the sport out at the town’s tourist office.

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