Cover Sports Historiques Ca Aurelien Buttin 1920x1080 1
©Côte d’Azur France – Aurélien Buttin

6 historic sports on the Côte d'Azur / French Riviera

There is no shortage of traditions on the Côte d’Azur. Among them, our sporting heritage stands out with original activities that worth discovering! But if someone says pauma, pilou-pilou, mourra, square boules -6 historic sports on the Côte d’Azur – have you ever heard of them?


Popular game of boules played on the Côte d’Azur and in Provence since the beginning of the 20th century.

Is it really necessary to present this sport? Pétanque has been played on the Côte d’Azur since the beginning of the 20th century. Absolutely everyone plays, and in every area of the Côte d’Azur everything from local tournaments to international competitions are organized. It’s a sport that is taken seriously on the Côte d’Azur! So, are you going to shoot or point? The top event in Nice is Euro Pétanque.


Pauma is a historic sport that has been widely practiced throughout Europe.

Pauma was keenly played in the region until the last war. Some villages however continue the tradition… It is a complete sport close to tennis, with one essential difference: it is played with bare hands and no racket. To play all you need is a wall, the highest and the widest possible, and a tennis ball or a ball.


A variant of pétanque. It is played in the same way but with wooden cubes.

This traditional game comes from Gap in the Hautes-Alpes. It is practiced in teams of two, three, or four. Unlike pétanque, players can lie down to play. They lean on their empty hand, arm outstretched, to assess the terrain. Some variants also make it possible to use obstacles or rebounds. The cubes are 9 to 10 centimetres apart. The jack, here called titchon, strace or petit, measures 3 to 4 centimetres along the sides. In Cagnes-sur-Mer, Antibes, La Turbie, or Peille, square boules competitions are organized.


Make way for juggling! All you need is a simple coin with a hole in the middle and paper stuffed in the hole!

Once that’s done, you get the funniest traditional game in Nice! Pilou is played everywhere. Or rather is juggled everywhere, with your feet, knees, chest or head. On your own or with two players, it’s very physical! For nearly 20 years, the village of Coaraze has been hosting the Pilou World Championships, with teams from the region and even from Italy honouring us with their very creative figures. Did you know? The game of pilou was immortalized by Alfred Hitchcock in the movie To Catch a Thief shot on the Côte d’Azur in 1955 – two policemen appear playing pilou during a stakeout.


A game of strategy, observation, anticipation, and mental arithmetic…

Mourra, a traditional game around Nice, is a bit of everything. Invented in Levens, inland from Nice, the rule of the game is simple: guess the total number of fingers are shown by the two opponents. For example, if player A shows three fingers and player B two, you have to give the total (often in nissart) of five. Obviously, they reveal their fingers at the same time. If no one guesses, the game continues. Whenever a player gets the right total they score a point. This traditional game is played both by children in playgrounds and adults in tournaments.


Originally an old profession passed on by Marseille fishermen to their descendants, it is a physical and spectacular discipline. Rowing calls for a strong pair of lungs, willpower, community spirit and a fool proof team mind set. The traditional Provencal rowing sets itself apart from standard rowing with different positions and equipment.


Water jousting consists of knocking down the opponent, who is on a platform at the back of a boat, using a spear. Among the six varieties of water jousting, the Provencal game is seen from Marseille to Nice. The player’s platform is two meters above water level. The player has a wooden breastplate which the opponent aims at with a spear. Both opponents must stay on their “tintaine”. If a player falls, they lose. In season, jousting competitions are organized in particular in Antibes, Cannes, Cagnes-sur-Mer… and every year in June, the jousting championships are held in Saint-Mandrier.