The ball game practiced for more than a century in Royan was not directly imported from the south-west of France but… from Latin America. Every year, a competition of Basque pelota is scheduled in the summer Park pediment (Avenue Emile-Zola). Free entry.

Tourism in Royan: when the ball gets involved

Ile-de-France, Lille, Bretons... No need to pass through the capital or cut the road to Bayonne or Saint-Jean-de-Luz to discover the traditional Basque pelota and its spectacular battering against a wall where the rubber slaps like so many small detonations.

During holidays in Royan, tourists, sportsmen and just the curious come into contact with this multi-millennial sport. Basque pelota is a distant adaptation of the old tennis game which already had many followers in the classical period (XNUMXth-XNUMXth centuries). The pediment of 12 meters high de Royan is, after that of Paris, the most northerly in France.

Origin of Basque pelota in Royan

The arrival of the pelota cannot be explained by geographical proximity or by the influence of the Basque country. It is, on the contrary, an astonishing game of billiards with three cushions between Charentes and Argentina (10 kilometres) which led this sport to rebound in Royan, to the point of constituting today an imperishable piece of heritage. 

In 1882, a young native of the Arvert peninsula, Camille Ménard, left to pursue a career in Latin America. There, he practices pelota with the large Basque diaspora present in the land of the gauchos. He then brought the virus of Euskal Pilota (the vernacular name of Basque pelota) back from Buenos Aires. Back home in 1896, he took out of his luggage bullets and a top hat (a basket-shaped play glove). After buying a hotel near Royan, he undertook to develop pelota with the help of a French Basque, Zumalacaregui.

Grand Chistera tournament every summer

In Saujon, he first got his hands on the facade of a notary's office. The latter overlooks a maternal courtyard where he improvises a cancha (shooting surface). Then he managed to build up to six competition walls in the Parc district of Royan between 1920 and 1927. Current Grand Fronton, which serves as a playground for pelota enthusiasts, dates from 1932. bombing of 1945 spared him.

Thus began a golden age for the discipline. The Charente station organizes galas and dream posters. For example, a meeting between the World Champion at the time, a 1.95 m Basque, Joseph Apesteguy, nicknamed Chiquito de Cambo, and the Spanish n°1 Eloy. It thus attracts aficionados and tourists in search of new sensations.

Le Royan Ocean Club opened a section devoted to Basque pelota after the war, in 1946. From then on, he quickly distinguished himself on the circuit. The old tradition of chanting, with an atypical song, the points scored during the matches is repeated on the fronton of the Park. The tournament finals Grand Chistera of Royan take place at the end of the day on Saturday, from mid-July to mid-August.


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