High-speed, acrobatic and more than a little dangerous, watching a Jai-Alai game is likely to have you perched on the edge of your seat (and perhaps, ducking behind the seat in front), but watching the famed sport played on home turf is still a thrilling sight.
The fast-paced game, a kind of handball which involves hitting a rock-hard leather-covered ball against a high wall, became popular in the Basque Country more than four centuries ago, and holds the record for the “fastest sport in the world,” with the balls reaching speeds of up to 300 kilometer per hour and knock-outs not uncommon.
Known locally as pelota, Jai Alai comes in a number of variations including “a mano” (bare-handed), “a paleta” (played with a wooden paddle) and the most common, “cesta punta” (using traditional leather and reed paddles). It is played on open courts known as frontons, and while the sport has waned in popularity over recent years, pelota matches are still a common occurrence in Basque Country, especially from June to August when matches are held almost every night of the week at frontons all around the region. Daring attendees can even book a trial class or have a go at throwing the ball pre-match.