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Time for Water Jousting in Sete!

It’s time for the St. Louis Festival in Sete. Gee, I hate to miss it this year. It’s always so much fun: beach time, parties, and the Sete water jousting competitions.

I’m in the States with my family. Why now? After four years in France, I’ve learned that August is an excellent time to leave — it’s hot, and too many tourists in Uzés! Yet …

Sete water jousting
Water jousting on the Grand Canal

Sete Water Jousting

History of Water Jousting

If you’re unfamiliar with water jousting, it started centuries ago, notably in Egypt and Greece. Evidence of the competition was found in stone carvings. The Romans were known to enjoy the sport. Instead of water, they sometimes flooded the city arenas they used for people’s sports like gladiator fights.

Water jousting, or “joutes nautiques,” began in Lyon, France, in the 12th century. In the 13th century, crusaders embarking on the Holy Wars with King Louis IX (Saint Louis) teamed up against each other in small boats outside Aigue-Mortes.

In Sete, water jousting was first seen when the city celebrated the opening of the harbor in 1666. The sport has become a tradition and is played pretty much the same.

Sete Water Jousting

The first time I saw the sport of water jousting was on a visit with Nancy McGee of Absolutely Southern France. It just happened to be the St. Louis Festival. Afterward, I intentionally planned my visits to Sete for the wild and crazy late August weekend.

Some of you might remember one of the St. Louis Festival trips to Sete. I met the Bad Girls Groove Band of London for the first time. They rocked the main stage at the festival’s award ceremony.

Then there was the time when I was up close and personal with the winner of the week’s event.

Sete water jousting
Water Jousting Champion and “kiss the trophy.”

Sete Water Jousting

By far, the most exciting St. Louis Festival celebration for me was when the Sete Tourist Office invited me to attend the finals as a member of the “press.” Events included parties at the tourist office for jousting club members and special guests. And yes! Specialties from Sete, like mini tielles and oysters, were front and center.

Meanwhile, at the Hotel de Ville (City Hall), local members of the town administration and the jousting federation readied themselves to meet the crowd in all their festive regalia.

Yes, there was a party going on! The town square was mobbed with entertainers, jousters, and fans.

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Be prepared to fall in love with France, all over again!

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When the time came for the championship match, the press crew marched to the canal for the grand finale alongside the dignitaries.

The Barefoot Blogger was in the parade! Yahoo! If that wasn’t enough, the press members were invited to jump in a boat and try their luck at jousting!

Nooooo…. not me!

Sete water jousting
A brave member of the Press ready for action

Sete Water Jousting

Yes, I’m missing the St. Louis Festival and much more. Where else can you run into this? Water jousting in Sete. Love it!


For a closer look at the tradition of water jousting in Sete, here’s a video from Culture Trip. Be sure to watch it in full. It’s a beautiful story about a family and their passion for jousting that’s passed from one generation to the next. 


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