Category: Basque sports (page 1 of 5)

Traditional Basque Sports Explained in Short Video

Herri kirolak–traditional sports–are one of the defining features of Basque culture. Many of these sports developed out of everyday chores like chopping wood or lifting heavy objects. Neighbors would then challenge each other to informal feats of strength and/or stamina and out of these challenges, the custom of betting on the outcome developed. Nowadays these challenges take place in organized settings, typically during local fiestas for example, and involve formal, regulated competitions.

Check out the following short video from Iparralde that explains in brief form a gathering of competitors in various Basque sports in the town of Donapaleu (Saint-Palais) in Lower Navarre.

The Center has published books on several aspects of sports in Basque culture. See, for example, Basque Pelota: A Ritual, an Aesthetic by Olatz González Abrisketa, and Playing Fields: Power, Practice, and Passion in Sport, edited by Mariann Vaczi.

July 13, 1955: Birth of pilotari Panpi Ladutxe

On July 13, 1955, one of the great characters in the modern age of pilota (also spelled pelota) was born in Azkaine, Lapurdi: Panpi Ladutxe (also spelled Pampi Laduche). The son of another famous pilotari or Basque handball player, Joseph Ladutxe, he began his career in the four-walled trinkete (closed court) version of the sport more common in Iparralde or the Northern Basque Country, where he was from, becoming world champion in this version at the tender age of 19. He later switched to the three-walled (open court) fronton variety more common in Hegoalde or the Southern Basque Country in his mid-20s, winning two doubles titles in 1987 and 1989, partnered by Joxean Tolosa.

Ladutxe stood out in many ways, being the first player from Iparralde to gain success in Hegoalde in the modern age. After retirement he went on to promote and develop the sport in and train fellow players from Iparralde, two of whom in particular–Sebastien Gonzalez and Yves Salaberri or “Xala”–went on to enjoy great success, following in his footsteps. He has also been a great showman away from the court, enjoying some success as a singer of traditional Basque songs both live and in the release of two records: Aitari (1995) and Chansons du Pays Basque (2002).

Legendary pelota player bids farewell to game

On June 24, in the Labrit fronton or pelota court in Pamplona-Iruñea, Navarre, one of the greatest pelota players of all time, Juan Martinez de Irujo, made an emotional farewell to the sport. Born in 1981 in Ibero, Navarre, he debuted in the professional game in 2003 and went on to win five individual championships in the handball variety, the blue ribbon event in modern pelota. In 2016, however, he announced his temporary retirement from the sport (a decision later confirmed as permanent) due to heart issues.

On Saturday, Irujo was only in attendance, not taking part in a game, but following the completion of the games taking place, he went down to the court dressed in his archetypal pelotari uniform and accompanied by his daughter to receive the warm applause of all those gathered, spectators that included Uxue Barkos (President of the Navarrese Government) and Joseba Asiron (mayor of Pamplona-Iruñea).

Check out this report (in Spanish) and accompanying video of the afternoon’s events.

*Image by bedaio3000, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

 

June 14, 1959: Famous Basque woodchopper Latasa achieves major feat

Ramon Latasa Elizondo (1930-1991)

On June 14, 1959, in Lekeitio, Bizkaia, the renowned Basque aizkolari (woodchopper) Ramon Latasa achieved one of his most memorable feats: that day, on the basis of major betting on the outcome, he cut through the trunk of a Eucalyptus tree with a girth of just under 17 feet (!) within 4 hours; specifically, in 3 hours and 17 minutes, and with 5,259 ax blows.

 

Ramon Latasa Elizondo was born on the Aguria baserri in Sunbilla, Nafarroa, in 1930 into a poor family. At age 17 he began working in the logging industry, gaining special fame among his coworkers for his woodchopping prowess. His most famous feat took place on April 26, 1959, when he won a legendary challenge in competition with Luxia (Juan Jose Narbaiza Ibarbia), from Azkoitia, Gipuzkoa.  In this “challenge of the century” (as it was termed at the time), the humble woodchopper from Sunbilla finished a whopping 5 minutes before his rival, leaving onlookers stunned at the feat.  Latasa continued taking part in thee challenges through the 1960s and even into the 1970s, retiring at age 47. Remembered by many as the greatest aizkolari of all time, he died in 1991.

Winnemucca Basque Festival

Continuing on our summer Basque Festival tour of the West, some of us at the CBS and Jon Bilbao Basque Library had the chance to visit Winnemucca and attend its 39th Annual Basque Festival. Once again, we got up early (but thankfully not as early as the weekend before) and set off east toward Winnemucca. On the way there, we had a lovely breakfast in Lovelock!

Cowpoke Cafe in Lovelock

Mmm…breakfast

Once in Winnemucca, we watched the Basque Festival Parade. Many of the dance groups and clubs had floats parade down Winnemucca Blvd. The local fire and police department were also present. It seemed as if all of the town had gone out to watch the parade, and the children were giddy with excitement over the candy being thrown to them from all of the participants.

Parade

More parading!

Next up, we headed to the convention center. Right outside, on the Nixon Lawn, festival goers had set up for the picnic, and everywhere you looked, you could see young boys and girls dressed in their traditional outfits ready to have fun.

Txiki dancers

Inside the convention center, everyone was buying tickets for the lunch and merriment. The Boise Basque Museum had set up a table with various gift items and souvenirs. Our Basque Books Editor was also present with a display of our many publications and eager buyers.

Inside the Convention Center

Our Basque Books Editor!

Before the eating began, the national anthems were sung and dance performances kicked off the event. Throughout the day, various groups danced and competitions were held. Among them, dance-offs and weight lifting competitions. A professional wood chopping display was the highlight for me. Stephanie Braña did a great job! To learn more about her, see the following article in Euskal Kazeta.

Dantzaris

Wood-chopping

Lunch was delicious! We had salad, beans, lamb stew, and steak, accompanied by wine and bread. Hats off to the cooks! We then had the chance to watch more performances but left before the concerts began. Too bad we couldn’t stick around!

Lunch!

Once again, these Basque festivals and picnics do not disappoint! Not only was it a lovely day in the sun, but we were surrounded by fun people and entertainment. Can’t wait till the next one!

Nothing like the Nevada views

Photo credits: Edurne Arostegui, Iñaki Arrieta-Baro, and Irati Urkitza.

Premiere of Aberne, a short movie about women in pelota, on Sunday

Sunday will see the premiere of the movie Aberne, a short film that was the result of a Master’s thesis by Irati Santiago, from Villabona (Gipuzkoa), at Columbia College Chicago. It was produced by Santiago and written and directed by Emma Johnson. From the movie website:  “Aberne tells the story of a young, Basque woman struggling to be accepted amongst external societal pressures in a region where friends, family and co-workers all come together under one sport, pelota. Aberne seeks the opportunity to break free from the culture’s limitation and prove herself worthy of not only playing pelota, but of the general public’s respect.”


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/165637744″>Aberne Interview H264</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19210914″>Irati Santiago</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

The film was shot in the Tolosa district of Gipuzkoa, in Basque, and with English subtitles.  It tells the story of a young woman who aspires to be a professional pelotari or Basque handball player in the face of much resistance, including on the part of her mother, who attempts to convince her to stick to the family bread-making business.


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/165733435″>Aberne Teaser English H264</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user19210914″>Irati Santiago</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a>.</p>

See a report on the movie premiere by the Noticias de Gipuzkoa (in Spanish) here.

Check out Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic, by Olatz González Abrisketa, which seeks to contextualize this sport within Basque culture more generally.

La Única Rugby Women’s Taldea fight to ascend into the Honors’ Division

This weekend the women’s rugby championships will be held at the Public University of Navarre (Pamplona). La Única Rugby Taldea from Pamplona are in the bracket to ascend into the Honors’ Division of the League, which comprises all of Spain. This is a momentous event for the team, and we wish them all the luck in the world, they deserve it! Our own graduate student Amaia Iraizoz once trained for the very same team. She’ll be watching her friends and teammates play this weekend, hoping for the best.

Here’s a video the team has put together, wow does it inspire me! Zorte on neskak!

To read more, check out this article in the Diario de Noticias de Navarra (in Spanish).

A Girls’ Game? Women and Pelota

Continuing on our tour through Women’s History Month, I recently came across a short documentary film, Las Pelotaris: A Girls’ Game, directed by Andrés Salaberri Pueyo and Daniel Burgui Iguzkiza, which was released in 2015.

 

The film, as the title suggests, is about women who play the Basque sport of pelota, but it goes beyond Basque women to follow players from around the world. In a universe dominated by men, these women struggle for recognition for their passion in this sport. Check out the trailer, I’m sure you’ll be enticed to watch the full documentary!

As the film’s website describes:

A story of passion and challenges

‘LAS PELOTARIS’ is the story of Maite, Alice, Rose, Marion, Esther and many other women playing the Basque game of pelota; a sport which remains exotic and unknown, although it is played and practised in over 30 countries.

On the court, these women are brave and play with enthusiasm and sacrifice, but even if they win medals and World tournaments, their achievements always are discreet. Because, above all, this is a sport for men.

To read more check out: http://www.laspelotaris.com/story/?lang=en

For 99 cents, you can watch the full film at the following website: https://www.feelmakers.com/en/videos/13711/las-pelotaris_-a-girl%EF%BF%BD-s-game

For more on women and pelota, check out some of our previous posts, including one on the championship held earlier this month. And of course, if you’re interested in learning more about Basque sports, check  out Olatz González Abrisketa’s  Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic

 

March 8, 1983: Olympic gold-medal canoeist Maialen Chourraut born

Maialen Chourraut. Image at Basque Team website.

On March 8, 1983, slalom canoeist Maialen Chourraut Iurramendi was born in Donostia. Over the last two decades she has competed at the top level in world canoeing, winning the bronze medal at the K-1 event at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London and the gold medal in the K-1 event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. She is currently one of the top Basque sports figures.

Chourraut in action in the K1 slalom event at the 2012 Olympics. Picture by David Merrett, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Chourraut took up canoeing on La Concha beach in Donostia at age twelve. Thereafter, she joined the Atletico San Sebastian sports club, where she learned her craft, and she competed for the first time for the Spanish national team in 2000 at the Junior World Championships. Under the guidance of her coach (and future husband) Xabi Etxaniz, also a former Olympic canoeist, she rose in the world rankings in the individual kayak (K1) category, the fast sprint event, winning medals at the World and European Championships as well as her achievement of Olympic glory.  In 2013 she gave birth to a daughter, Ane, who was present at her gold medal-winning performance in Rio in 2016 – as you can see in the video below.

And check out the amazing reception she received on returning to Donostia!

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Women’s Pelota Championship Reaches Conclusion

Yesterday, March 5, the finals of the Laboral Kutxa Emakume Master Cup–the principal women’s pelota championship–was held in Zornotza (Amorebieta), Bizkaia.

In total, 80 women took part in the event. They hailed from all over the Basque Country as well as Andalusia, Catalonia, Valencia, and Zaragoza,  and even Cuba and Mexico. They included well-known bertsolari (improvising verse singer) Iratxe Ibarra, from Markina-Xemein, Bizkaia; and Daniela Vargas, from Amecameca, Mexico, who gave up her job as an architect to train for and compete in the competition.

Check out the short promotional video for the tournament here:

The event, involving doubles or pairs, took place over two months and culminated yesterday in two different finals. In the elite category, Olatz Arrizabalaga (from Gautegiz-Arteaga, Bizkaia) and Leire Etxaniz (Etxebarria, Bizkaia) beat Nagore Arozena (Lizartza, Gipuzkoa) and Maider Mendizabal (Anoeta, Gipuzkoa) 22-14, while in the first division final Alba Martinez (Baños de Río Tobía, La Rioja) and Arrate Bergara (Tutera, Nafarroa), both fourteen-years-old incidentally, beat Nagore Aramendi (Azpeitia, Gipuzkoa)–replacing the injured Jaione Zulaika (Getaria, Gipuzkoa)–and Nagore Bilbao (Laukiz, Bizkaia) 22-18.

For more information on the event, see the official website here.

If you’re interested in learning more about this great Basque sport, check out Basque Pelota: A Ritual, An Aesthetic by Olatz González Abrisketa, which sets out to explain what pelota reveals about Basque culture more generally.

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