Descent of the river Sella
The Descent of the river Sella is the single most important popular celebration of Asturias (Spain), and is considered to be a celebration of International Tourist interest. It has been held since 1930, only interrupted by the Spanish Civil War between 1936 and 1943. It consists of a canoe race down the 20 kilometers of the river Sella between the towns of Arriondas and Ribadesella.
The Descent of the river Sella has its origin in an event that happened in 1929, when Dionisio de la Huerta and two friends covered the 5 kilometers between Coya and Infiesto on canoe, down one of the tributaries of the river Sella. It took them more than 2 hours, because of the constant stops to enjoy the landscape. What started as an ordinary day in the countryside, a daytrip amongst friends, turned out to be the seed of the race as we can enjoy it nowadays.
They didn’t stop there; the next year, in 1930, they reached Arriondas, being followed by a bus of curious locals all the way to their destination. The constant stops to meet their followers made the trip last more than seven hours, but the purpose of this descent was far from being a race; they intended to pay a tribute to the river and to enjoy the landscape. This second “descent”, though, is considered to be the first edition of the contest.
Since then, many changes have occurred: in 1932, when the finish was already set at Ribadesella, 13 contestants competed already, and by 1935, many non-Asturian contestants were inscribed. In 1951 the first international contestants from Italy and Portugal were inscribed. Today, the record of the competition is set at 1 hour and 1 minute.
The size of the race has grown so big that in 1994, more than 1400 canoes took part in the race, and many side activities have developed around the main event, the canoe race, which is considered to be the most important canoeing event in the world. Side events consist of a huge celebration along the river’s basin, a gastronomic fair in Ribadesella’s Campos de Ova, and an electronic music festival that started in 2005 called Aquasella.
There has been a lot of criticism from the locals about the fact that the Descent of the river Sella has swung towards a more party-related event, and the organizers claim to recover the spirit of the celebration: a tribute to the landscape of Asturias and its exuberant nature.