Building Castells or human towers is an age-old tradition in Spain. Believed to have been started by dancers in the 18th century, it is now a part of the Spanish culture, especially for the residents of the region of Catalonia in North East Spain.
The Concurs de Castells (Championship of Human Towers), which took place in the town of Tarragona last weekend, is considered to be the best of all the Castell events. Held once every two years on the first Saturday of October, this competition attracts the most skilled human tower colles or groups and also the biggest crowds.
This year was no exception. Over 10,000 people gathered to cheer the18 colles (groups) that competed. Dressed identically except for the color of their shirts, each team was seen sporting white pants, a bandanna and a black sash, which is the most important part of the attire. The sash, whose length varies depending on the climber's position in the castell, not only protects their backs, but also acts as a foothold or handhold for other climbers. For obvious reasons, none of the climbers wore shoes.
The competition is judged on various criteria , which includes the length and complexity of the tower as well as an orderly assembly and dis-assembly. To score the maximum points, the last person to get to the top of the tower, has to raise his or her arm and salute to the crowd, before beginning a safe descent . After that, the rest of the human tower has to disassemble in an orderly fashion.
The human tower is formed in two stages. The first stage consists of building a base or Pinya, which involves non-climbers that help support the weight and act as a safety net, in case any of the climbers fall off. Once the Pinya is built, the people who are supposed to be the base take their positions. Then the fun begins.
With traditional music playing in the background, the climbers quickly climb to their respective spots. They have to be rapid, so that the people at the base, who are supporting all the weight, do not get too tired. As soon as the last person gets to the top and salutes, the dis-assembly, which is the trickiest part, begins.
This year's winners were Colle de Vila Franca, who beat the two favorites Colle Vella Valls and Colle Joves Valls by more than 2,500 points. In Vella Valls case, a clumsy dismantle cost them some points, while the Joves lost because the person at the summit lost her grip. However, judging from the pictures and the video, I am sure you'll agree that they were all simply amazing!
Sources: Wikipedia.org, WierdhaminVilanova