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The jábegas, stars of an increasingly popular local sport

Members of La Araña Rowing Club pulling their jábega out of the sea at Pedregalejo.
Members of La Araña Rowing Club pulling their jábega out of the sea at Pedregalejo. / Francis Silva
  • The provincial league's Pepe Almoguera Cup has just been held for the seventh year

It's very windy on Pedregalejo beach. The sea is quite choppy; it doesn't look inviting on this Sunday morning, a day when many local people come here to relax after a busy week. Despite this, quite a large number of people seem very keen to start another day in the Provincial Jábegas League, part of which had to be postponed the previous day for safety reasons because of the swell of the sea.

The jábega, a traditional rowing boat from Malaga, is the star of a very local sport. The tradition of competing in this type of boat began in the 19th century and was started by fishermen. Nowadays, even though most of the teams have difficulty obtaining funding, it is becoming even more popular: eight clubs and over 400 oarsmen and women take part in 14 regattas with different sections.

The league is divided into seniors, veterans, women and youth sections, and is organised by the Association of Traditional Rowing in collaboration with the Malaga provincial government.

Nautical tradition

The enthusiasm for jábegas is shared by people of all ages, from the oldest in the senior category down to the youngsters who compete in the youth teams. This bodes well for the future of the jábegas, in a society which sometimes seems to be moving steadfastly away from tradition.

However, the hundreds of people from Malaga who take part in the competitions, which are held between May and September, dedicate a great deal of time to this sport.

La Araña Rowing Club is one example of the growth this sport is experiencing. "This year we have been able to set up a women's and veteran team, and we finally have our own crew at last. We used to have a team of 14 people but there are over 40 of us now," says the club's president, Francisco Castro.

The world of the jábega is also aligned with the recent growth in women's sport. María, a member of La Araña Rowing Club, says she is looking forward to another day of competing: "We are still beginners but we are very pleased at how we are doing. A lot of us were very keen to take part in this project," she says.

The regatta the previous day was not normal because of the sea conditions, and it meant the youth competition couldn't take place for safety reasons. When the final results were in, the women's race had been won by La Cala del Moral, with La Carihuela and Torre del Mar taking second and third place.

The veterans race was also won by La Cala del Moral, followed by Torremolinos and Pedregalejo, the club which was celebrating its 20th anniversary.

The senior team from La Araña also won its category, with Torre del Mar and La Cala del Moral coming second and third.