First played in the 13th century, pelota is a popular sport throughout Spain and many Latin American countries. Basque pelota is the most popular version of the sport although there are many varieties using different rules, techniques and equipment. The first recordings of the sport go back to ancient Greece and in his famous work The Odyssey, Greek poet Homer refers to pelota. Its popularity continued to grow to the extent that during the 19th century the top champion players were the highest paid sportsmen of the era and pelota was even included in the summer Olympics of 1900. Although originally played in the Basque regions of Spain and France, the sport soon caught on throughout Spain and is even considered the national sport in Valencia. Pelota courts and facilities are available at a number of sports clubs and complexes in Torrevieja including the extremely popular Sports City.
Pelota is similar to squash and is played on a hard surface court called a fronton. There are 3 sizes of fronton, the shortest being 30 metres and the longest 54 metres. Players use a ball made of rubber or leather with a variety of fillings. The oblong frontons have a smaller front wall and longer side wall that have lower and upper lines marking the in-play areas and as long as the ball is played within the marked area, players can hit and receive the ball off either wall. The game is contested by two single players or teams of two. The server bounces the ball of the floor then strikes, and the ball can either be played directly off the front wall or from a rebound off the side wall as long as it strikes within the in-play area. The opponent must strike the ball back within one bounce off the floor.
The variations of the game are mainly down to what the players strike the ball with. The basic form of the game is played with the bare hand, striking the ball with the palm and players are noticeable by the sometimes huge swelling that occurs. There are various gloves used from short and shallow to long deep gloves. Palas or paletas are wooden rackets also used to play the game that come in various widths, lengths and weights, the heaviest, which is only used in Spain, weighing nearly 1 kilogram !! Recognised as the fastest game on earth, jai alai is a version of the sport that uses an extended glove that has an attached curved basket to catch and throw the ball. The fastest recorded throw was over 300 km/h and deaths do occur, especially when ”macho” players choose not to wear protective head gear.