From tradition to modern sport

May 13, 2022

Euskal Herria is a land of local customs. Traditions hold a lot of weight for us, and that’s why we continue to uphold our long-standing customs – but with a special touch. Perhaps that’s the best part; these ancient customs were updated and adapted to our characteristics, until they eventually became modern sports.

So, for example, although many civilisations around the world have played different pelota (ball) games throughout the history, Basque pelota is one of the few current sports derived from it. What’s more, nowadays pelotaris (pelota players) are top athletes, having even taken part in the Olympic Games, in Barcelona to be precise.

Between the 12th and 18th centuries, Basque whalers set out to sea in boats to hunt. Following in the footsteps of those brave sailors, today these boats known as traineras and the regattas are one of the most unique Basque sports. They can be seen all along the Cantabrian coast.

Zumaia gives you the opportunity to find out about many of the sports stemming from ancient customs. When it comes to pelota, there’s the pelota festival held on the day of San Telmo, as well as the Dinastía Etxabe tournament, held between July and August. The pelotaris of the Dinastía Etxabe come from the Artadi neighbourhood of Zumaia. The month of the tournament is a great opportunity to pay tribute to these great pelotaris.

Cesta Punta, or Jai Alai, is a discipline derived from pelota, and it also holds a place in Zumaia. It is probably the most widely known speciality, and also the most spectacular. That’s because the ball travels at lightening speeds, sometimes reaching 300 kilometres per hour. Don't miss all the excitement of one of the oldest games in civilisation!

The ancestors of the ancient whalers live on in Zumaia, and you can see them both along the Urola River and on the Cantabrian Sea. On the last day of the celebration of San Telmo, for example, trainerilla regattas are held. Meanwhile, in June, there are rowing regattas for veterans, and the Ikurriña of Zumaia is held as part of the San Pedro festival. You'll be amazed to see how men and women slide the boat through the water, using nothing but their physical strength. It's a true spectacle!

Nevertheless, rowing has adapted to keep up with the times, and the canoe is perhaps the most often-seen type of boat in Zumaia. The regattas for the youngest participants are held as part of the San Telmo celebrations, while in July the Urolako Igoera-Jaitsiera event is held. And, although it has no fixed date, the Zumaia-Sakoneta-Zumaia canoe race has the best backdrop: the cliffs of the Basque Coast Geopark and the flysch.

If you want to enjoy sport and traditions, Zumaia is the destination for you!