Gran Canaria
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Gran Canaria

Local Sports

Games of the past, present and future

The traditional games and sports of the Canary Islands are as old as life on the islands and have been carefully tended over the years, passed down from one generation to another.

Like a tree trunk amasses ring after ring over the years, so the native sports have grown protected by the native islanders from times before the Conquest by the Crown of Castile.

Detail of the stick bouts
Dusk in the hinterland of Gran Canaria

In Gran Canaria, as in the rest of the Archipelago, there are people who play “el juego del palo” a kind of jousting bout with sticks and "la lucha canaria" (Canary wrestling), sports that date way back in time but have never lost their popularity. The latter in particular is a competition organised over teams with skills passed on from father to son which attracts large audiences wherever there is a “terrero” or special wrestling arena for wrestling matches.

Another sport which has withstood the passing of time is the Lateen sailing or "Vela Latina Canaria" with strong following on all the islands, but above all in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. These boats are no simple sailing vessels but have to be built specifically. The mast is completely out of proportion with the hulk of the boat thus making the success of the sport dependent upon the crews who have to keep the boat afloat by skilfully managing weights and counterweights, in competitions and events that attract large followings along the seafront in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria at weekends.

Las Palmas de Gran Canaria with the statue of Atlantis in the background
A lateen sailing boat in full sail

As is to be expected of a rural society such as the islands have always been, there are many traditional sports relating to rural activities. Thus we have “el salto del pastor” spectacular leaps down mountainsides using a shepherd’s crook as a pole upon which to lever, the traditional raising of the ploughshare, boulder lifting (a kind of weightlifting using natural stone and cattle dragging or drawing competitions. These date back to the time when most people lived in the country and off the land.

People say that you can tell the age of a fish by counting the rings under the scales. You can tell the time that Gran Canaria, a volcanic island that rose out of the sea, has been inhabited then by counting the generations that have practised the traditional sports and games.

More information:

Lucha Canaria (Canarian Wrestling) 
Vela Latina (Lateen Sailing) 
Salto del pastor (Shepherd’s pole vaulting) 
Levantamiento y pulseo de la Piedra (Stone lifting) 
Levantamiento del Arado (Ploughshare lifting) 
Juego del Palo (Stick Fighting) 
Lucha del Garrote (Pole Fighting) 
Arrastre de Ganado (Cattle drawing)