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Basque sports

STONE LIFTING

It isn?t just a matter of strength

Stone lifting is certainly among the Basque sports that cause the most amazement among those coming across them for the first time. Seeing a man lifting the block again and again and feeling its weight when the stone crashes down onto the sack, is a spectacle that always impresses.

Like other Basque sports linked to the rural world, no historical documentation exists on stone lifting, but it is easy to imagine it as a truly ancient activity which emerged from work on farms and in quarries.

It was not until the early 20th century that stone lifting came to public squares as a sporting challenge. Victor Zabala ?Arteondo?, a harrijasotzaile (stone lifter) born in 1886, holds the honour of having established the sizes, shapes and weights of the stones used today. The irregular lump of rock hitherto used was then standardised in four geometrical shapes: the cylinder, the cube, the sphere and the rectangle. Each of them calls for a different technique. In fact, as those in the know make clear, stone lifting is to a great extent a matter of technique rather than just strength.

Today, rather than challenges and bets, the most common format is exhibitions (generally in summer) and championships. The harrijasotzailes feature regularly in public festivities all over the Basque Country, and are in fact one of the high points of festive programmes.