Human beings here, in America, in Russia, in Africa have had to survive in the wild. To fight. They had to feed themselves. They had to work animals. They had to run. They had to lift weight. They had to cut trees to make fires and homes. They had to move rocks They cut the hay and grass to feed their animals. Each place in its own way. Run. Lift. Drag. Cut trees. Mow grass. These jobs, here in our land, we converted into sport. To get rocks from the quarries they used horses, mules, and men. The lifting stone has a story that I think is beautiful. Our ancestors started with what we call irregular stones. They were natural stones. Stones you find pretty much anywhere in the world. We’re continuing the tradition and for now there are still people who love it but we also don’t know how long the tradition will last. So, for now we carry on, but we’ll see for how long. [stone squeaking on leather] [stone hits beanbag] [squeaking on leather] [stone hits beanbag] My name is José Ramón Iruretagoiena. People call me Izeta II. Izeta is the name of the homestead. and “second” because my older brother started lifting stones and I’m younger than him, so they call me Izeta II. These guys are my son and my brother. Him? He’s my father. Yeah, no. Younger brother is III and my son is IV. I started lifting stones when I was young, very young. Maybe 14 or 15 years old. Now I’m 48 and you figure nearly 35 years… with stones. from then to now. Most of my records are with this type of stone. With the cubic stones. I also walk with my oxen. I like walking with the oxen a lot. It really relaxes me. It’s my hobby. The history, well, we were the first to enter the peninsula. There are three provinces. The zones are next to France. It’s right here, 30 kilometers away. Here we mostly speak Euskara. [speaking Euskara] The homestead is standard in Basque Country. Especially in Biscay and Gipuzkoa. They are isolated homes. They call them homesteads and historically they worked with livestock and farmed. Well, a lot of the events that are known as Rural Sports are mostly based on work in the field. So for example, with the anvil lifting event I’ve heard that the blacksmiths used to bet each other. And that’s where this sport that we do today comes from. Things like who can hit the anvil the most. We’ve got the Rural Sports, which are woodcutting, stone lifting, tug-of-wars, weight carrying. There are 18 events. A little bit of everything. I lift stones. This house is built with stones and wood. One would have to gather stones and lift them to build a wall. The wood? The trees are on the mountain. You’d have to take an ax and cut them. You’d have to drag those loads of wood back. So you’d grab two animals — two oxen and drag them home. It’s all work. My name’s Mikel Alzola. I live in Lekeitio but I’m from Guernica and Stone Dragging is what I do. I started when I was 20 years old and now I’m 43. And, I’ve never stopped. This comes from the quarries. That’s where they’d work with stone and so it comes from that profession. Like most of the sports from here. It might be two men or two horses competing. It’s something for the people to enjoy. So I weigh about 91kg, give or take and the stone we compete with is about… 740 to 750 kilos. At first, it’s not baf with the boots but then your feet start to dance a bit and your skin rubs raw or you lift a toenail. Your feet probably suffer the most. They’re sports that make you languish. You have to endure a lot. But at the same time, it is rewarding. When you go to a plaza and the people applaud you… It makes it all worth it to me. The Basque culture is based on the homestead. We were born among the animals. Lambs, cows, stones, and logs. I believe our culture has always been based there. And, to be a Lifter you have to have those roots. To do Basque Sports, you have to have this heritage. My name is Iñaki Gorostidi. I’m 61 years old. And I’m from Basque Country. Here in the Apakintza Homestead. I’m from Aduna. The countryside. I’ve been a stone lifter and a boxer. I’m proud and very open with how I feel. I’m not a Spaniard, I’m Basque. Historians aren’t really even sure where our language comes from. I was born in the homestead and when I went to school I didn’t know how to speak in another language. Just Euskara. The history? Let’s have a look. Strong people and tests of strength exist throughout the world. Everywhere. here in our land, Basque Country, for hundreds of years. people used stones in the mountains to prove who was the strongest. There have always been bets or ways to measure who was the strongest. Whether that be with stones or cutting logs when they were building homes. So just imagine, you’re a lifter and I’m a lifter. You’re from Texas and I’m from… California. California says, “I’m stronger than Texas.” And Texas says, “No. I’m stronger than California” Then a bet is made. It’s like a boxing match. They’d bet money. And then in the plaza, that’s where the show would happen and people loved to watch. Inaxio Perurena has scored very well. A plethora of technique. A plethora of dexterity. A plethora of everything I could tell you as we;re all about to witness. To the legs. Now to the chest. Here’s one heave! To the top! My name is Inaxio Perurena. I’m a stone lifter. And we’re here at a demonstration of Herri Kirolak during Bilbao’s festival week. We’re about to begin the first wood chopping challenge. The biscay region does more stone dragging. And in the Navarre region they do more Aizkolari, or woodcutting, whivh comes from the mountains where there’s lots of forests. and here we have a lot of quarries. All of this would have had an influence. personally, I got my start cutting logs. When I was younger, 16 years old, I was cutting logs. My brothers trained for woodcuting but that wasn’t for me. So, I started lifting stones and at about 17 years old I began to train more seriously. So yeah, then until I was 35. I’m Migueltxo Saralegi I live in Irurtzun, which is in Basque Country. I’m 47 years old. Well, I’ve had a lot of luck and a lot of successes. And, well, I have a few records. There are some pretty serious festivals for Rural Sports. Within the Big Week, that’s what we call the week of the festival, there’s our saint, the saint for the city of Bilbao. We start the party and it goes for a week There’s clowns, pupeteers, Rural Sports, The Buruhandiak, as we call them: the giants and big heads. They come out and chase the kids to entertain them a bit. These ones! Get these ones! There are some distinct activities and in El Arenal square we usually do the Rural Sports. Little by little, over time, there was a man, Arteondo, That began lifting shaped and measured stones. Spherical, Cubic Cylindrical, Rectangular, and like that, it’s transformed into a sport. About 120 years ago a federation was started to control things. Now the stones are regulated. little by little they began to create rules and those are the regulations we have today. It’s like weightlifting, right? You’ve got to be standing up straight, and it’s got to be a valid lift. And in the end these are the rules we abide by. To lift very fast, it’s the cylinder. To go around the neck, the sphere. To lift a huge weight, the rectangle. And then there’s the cube that also requires a unique technique to lift it. This is a cylindrical stone but specifically a modern cylindrical stone. “Modern” meaning it has special hollows in the bottom. Usually, a stone lasts a lifetime. A stone doesn’t wear out. It doesn’t break. Now this one broke because it’s a Modern but others you can fix. This type, though, it won’t break. This stone is 100 years old. 100! So this type of rectangular stone is modern. It’s easier to lift. More so than the vintage stones. Some would say the cube but I say the sphere is more difficult because it doesn’t have handholds to get a good grip. How much does this one weigh? 100 [kilos] 100? There’s nothing smaller than 100. I lifted this stone with one hand. It’s twice my weight, plus 31 kg. You can see how I grab it. I bring it to the legs. Then I bring the legs together. I reposition my hand here. With that grip I rotate it. With that secure I scoot it up and that’s when I get it on top. In stone lifting, as with all sports, there can be injuries. Your back, et cetera, can give you lots of trouble. And if you start to get injuries in that area maybe your back isn’t herniated but it’s going that way and that’s bad news. If you go to a sports store, you can’t find gear for our sport. It’s made by a shoemaker or saddler. A guy that did work on cars doing the upholstery for the seats he custom-made it for me. It’s just for protection. Whether you lift with this or this, to scoot it all this does is protect. And the exact same here. Not long ago there was no gear. You lifted in your work clothes. The change didn’t come all of a sudden. It was bit by bit by bit by bit. Someone would say, “I’m going to add a piece of fabric to this shirt — to these clothes.” Another might say, “I’m going to put two.” And yet another, “A little more.” Little by little. I started at 15 years old and I finished with this vest. It’s what, 40-something years old? Oh man, the stories it could tell. I keep it there because I’m so attached to it. Every lifter has their idiosyncrasies. So they try to do it in their way. Get it tight so my pants don’t fall off. There you go. The waist is very protected. It protects your body so the stone doesn’t hurt you. Leather belts are used to lift big weights. You know, training in a gym. But this is flexible. With this you can bend. But leather, I don’t know about you, but when I’ve tried, it hurts. It cuts me. They’ve tried a lot of girdles but the best seems to be the same we’ve always used. In the pants you have pads so the stone doesn’t drill into your leg. You put the corners here. Then you have good support to stretch back. Then you give it a heave and there you go. So this belt helps to keep it from sliding off. If this finish were down here, it would slip right off. It slips. And when it’s rough, it grabs on to you a bit. This stone of mine probably weighed, in the beginning, 1,000 kg. Then they cut it with a saw and it was a completely authentic, solid stone. Well the work we do is craftmanship. We use lots of machines but I have to finish it by hand. One man, with a hammer and chisel made a stone. Today, mechanization and progress with a computer and a machine… You grab the stone… automatic saws… It has advanced in a different way. Nowadays I can’t just do it by hand because it would take way too many hours, the price would be too high, and people don’t value it. So I have to use machines and then later I finish it by hand. They both have their charm. I was born in the Zelai homestead. My name is José Antonio Guisasola. Besides being a stone lifter I was a champion of the Euskadi region for 16 years. And now I focus on creating columns, balls, vases, stones for lifting. a bit of everything. The stone has to be just right for the lifter. Perfect. It needs to fit your size. You could stick lead in anything and make it 300kg, but- you couldn’t square it up anywhere. It doesn’t reach your legs, so you can’t lift it. Or it slips out from under you… You can’t make a stone really high and then get it on your shoulder. You have to have exact measurements a maximum height and a minimum height. The grips are going to move to fit your size. 56 centimeters is the minimum height. And the maximum height is 74. A lifter can’t just have strength and that’s it. Strength and a lot of cardio. Go up the mountain or in the gym with weights. Take weights for example. You grab a trainer and a barbell… Right? Repetitions. Lots of repetitions. Then you put it overhead. Just like that over and over. Lifting stones, a big stone, only takes 12 seconds but they are 12 very explosive seconds. When you deadlift, same thing. Grab the bar… Again! Lots of reps! Each of the three regions have a championship. Then they’ll do a championship with all three regions. So there’s how much weight you can lift, or, for example, how many lifts you can get with 100 kg in 10 minutes. There’s a guy who, in 10 minutes, lifted 100 kilos 319 times. Izeta is a machine. With a stone of 100, 125, 150 kilos he’s in his own league. 10! 44 seconds. There are many different sizes but the most ever lifted was by Migueltxo Saralegi. With a modern stone he lifted 329 kilos. Perurena was right up there too. It’s broken right here. That’s so you can grab it better and it won’t slip. In my opinion, the best lifter throughout history is Iñaqui Perurena. Iñaqui Perurena has lifted ancient stones. He has broken various records with ancient stones and he’s made new records with today’s stones. I’ve been able to lift stones. I always wanted to lift stones. My dream was to lift stones. The sphere. The cylinder. The cube. The rectangle. a bit of everything. I am Iñaqui Perurena. I live in a town within Navarre called Lietza which is where I was born. I’m turning 59 years old. I have spent 41 of those years lifting stones. I’ve now had an operation on my hip and yet I still dream of lifting even a little stone. I’ve always felt that Iñaqui Perurena, besides being one of the best lifters who has ever lived, he is our ambassador. He’s toured through Spain, he’s traveled to many places lifting stones, explaining it all and well, for me he’s been a great ambassador and still is. This will be an absolute pleasure to attempt this lift for you. At 37 years old, way past my prime, I lift my heaviest weight. And when I lifted the stone 1,077 times, I was 46. Nowadays you have to work during the day then in the evening you train for two or three hours. I’m a professor. A teacher. I’m working at a juice packing plant. So yeah, that’s my main income. Yes I work, I work. I work for the Zarautz local government. I’m an official in public administration. That’s my work, almost 30 years. And that’s my life. In the sport, we all go like this, them this. 25, 27, 28, 29, 30 years, 40 years and downward. 110 111 and now I’m at 120 kg. This is my biggest problem. It’s just a tiny thing, but… it ruins everything. I eat too much. I drink too much. I talk too much. I wasn’t me anymore. I slowly went downhill and now I’m 61. and it’s been years since I’ve ever tried. Now I just deal with small stones, miniatures. As you can see here I’ve got many miniature stones. When I retired from the sport I began making these. This one is for the record by Saralegi and it sells the most. It’s identical in every way but size. You can see the grips. The hollow. Here’s the stone’s weight. and, my signature. In a tree there’s the leaves, there’s the fruit, there’s the trunk, and there’s the roots. All of these make up a tree. They’re all individual elements but together form a tree. The culture of a people is made up of many elements. One isn’t more important than the other. These are some poems. This means, “If you don’t use Euskara, it dies. Not that you wouldn’t. But I mention it, just in case.” [Reciting it in Euskara] No one really makes any money in our sports. But since we like it, we do it and we preserve it. Rural Sports has no money backing it. So it’s emotional for me. I dream of lifting big stones. These emotions help you carry on through the suffering, the training, and at times, enjoying it. The stone has given me purpose. Life. I love to teach what I know. I want people to say, “I was trained by Izeta.” That would be a great honor. And I want my stones to carry on. To carry on in the plaza. Carry on in championships. Carry on for the public to see. I’ve seen some young, high-caliber lifters late.y. I’ve got two sons, Aitor and Mikel. Listen, if Mikel wants to continue this, well, that’s fantastic! And I’ll help him. But I’m not going to force him. If he did, I’d be proud and it would, I don’t know, be kind of beautiful. I’m trying to get him into it, little by litle but we’ll have to wait and see if that happens. We’re continuing the tradition and for now there are still people who love it but we also don’t know how long the tradition will last. And here we are, fighting. For the sport, our language, everything really. We’ll keep trying and going and going and… …and the world will keep going too.