Have you ever been inspired to throw a pinecone? If you have, and if you’ve gotten any distance with your throw, you may want to consider heading to France to compete, where Lions have made it their mission to bring not only the sport, but the world championships, to their hometown of Biscarrosse.

Man throws pineconeAfter a three-year break due to a storm in 2019 and COVID in 2020 and 2021, the World Pinecone Throwing Championships were back on for the Lions Club Pays De Born in Biscarrosse. Located in the Landes Region on the southwestern coast of France, the area is home to the Landes Forest, which is the largest maritime pine forest in Europe.

Hence all the pinecones suitable for throwing.

In this particular region of France, a sport called Pelote, in which players use the palm of their hand to hit a ball, is quite popular. You might say this skill comes in handy when throwing pinecones. But not all the nearly 400 competitors in the 2022 championships were locals. Participants came from all over France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Great Britain, and even Ecuador.

Though it isn’t really a surprise that so many people know about the unique sport. The World Pinecone Throwing Championship is not new. The popular annual event dates back to 1998 and local radio stations and newspapers regularly cover it, dispatching reporters and photographers to document the fun. Held every year on the last evening of July, it’s regularly featured in the list of official summer activities for the region, drawing tourists who are curious to see exactly how far a pinecone can be thrown.

To get in the spirit of things, all the organizers wear traditional white Landes outfits, red scarves, and Landes or Basque berets. An announcer keeps the crowd engaged while traditional Landes music plays in the background throughout the evening. The whole ordeal is quite festive.

Boy throws pineconeParticipants of all ages can compete and are divided by gender into eight different age groups.  Only Landes pinecones can be used in official competition. Competitors throw one (or two) pinecones as far as possible on a Basque pelota court. The pinecones must weigh in at 120 grams (4.2 ounces) plus or minus 10 grams (0.4 ounces), and measure 14 centimeters (5.5 inches) plus or minus 1 centimeters (0.4 inches) to be used in competition.

The throwing field, called a “Pignodrome” (“pigne” means “pinecones” in French) is approximately 50 meters (164 feet) long. Each competitor is entitled to two consecutive throws. The thrower stands in the throwing area, called a “Pignon”, and throws one or two pinecones as far as possible along the Pignodrome.

The throwing distance is then measured, and the best throw is recorded on a scoreboard for everyone to see. While only two throws can be made at any one time, competitors can return to launch cones as many times as they wish by returning to the registration line.

Sixteen world champion titles are at stake, one each for boys and girls, in eight different age groups. A chief referee, called “Pignolet”, guarantees compliance with the regulations of the event. At the end of the competition, the best performances in each category are rewarded with trophies: sixteen golden pinecones on varnished pine wood base (one for each champion of each category), two ceramic mega-pinecones for champions in all categories (men and women), and two crystal pins for the record holder.

Children line up for prizesIn the most recent event, throwers and spectators alike were enjoying themselves so much that officials had to do a bit of convincing to close down competition at midnight, but not before the evening produced two new world record holders.

Solen Friteyre, competing in the girls aged 10 to 14 category, threw a pin at 29.23 meters (95.90 feet), beating the previous record of 28.13 meters (92.30 feet). And Marius Petitpre, in the boys aged 0 to 4 group, beat the previous record of 9.20 meters (30.18 feet) with a throw of 10.46 meters (34.32 feet).

The proceeds from the night go to ongoing and future Lions Club Pays de Born projects, including equipping the beaches with devices allowing people with reduced mobility to swim, replacing the bus for a local nursing home, helping establish an Alzheimer’s day center, and creating a reception center for young people with autism and their caregivers in partnership with the Bisc’Atypique association.