International descent of the Sella River
it’s a festival full of music and colour, and has become one of the most important dates on the international canoeing calendar. every year, on the first Saturday in August, canoeists from all over the world come to Asturias to take part in the Sella River race. (in order to participate you must have a valid competition license).
more than one thousand canoes battle it out to be first home over the 20-kilometre course on the Sella River, which runs from the village of Arriondas to the finish line in 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. on the shore, thousands of spectators enjoy themselves, shouting and encouraging the participants. that day, first thing in the morning, the river train sets out from Oviedo and Ribadesella packed with people to see the start. at 11 o’clock, while the canoeists get ready on the river, colourful crowds of people in fancy dress make their way through the streets of Arriondas to watch the race, either on foot or on board all kinds of strange vehicles. at 12, the traditional verses to mark the start are read out and the competition is officially underway, with a stampede of canoes towards the river and the excited shouts of the spectators. on the way, the river train and the unusual motor cavalcade accompany the competitors in a joyful atmosphere. once at the finish line, the party transfers to the Campos de Ova, where trophies are awarded to the winners in each category and there is a huge picnic. there is food, cider, song, dance…
when night comes the fun continues in Ribadesella until the early hours, with its terrace bars and open-air parties. this year it will take place on August 6th and it’s officially considered its 80th edition! don’t miss it!