Few sporting events have a big party at the same time. The International Descent of the Sella, is an unusual test in which both professionals and amateurs, athletes and the public measure their strength. It is a Folkloric-sporting festival, declared of International Tourist Interest, the most important of the Asturian summer, without a doubt, due to its spectacle and public affluence.
This year 2019, will take place on Saturday 3 in August.
In the first video above you can check the great atmosphere that was in the Sella 2018. With much revelry, a multitudinous parade in Arriondas and a great race of canoes and selleros.
Descent of the Sella by canoe
If you want to enjoy the same experience as the professional paddlers you can do the descent of Sella with one of the active tourism companies in the area. We give you all the info in Canoe descent in canoe
The sports party of Las Pirguas
It all started at 1929 with a canoe trip Dionisio de la Huerta and a friend of his by the river Piloña, affluent of the Sella. In the summer of 1930, with one more companion they went down the Sella from Arriondas to Ribadesella without competitive pretensions, rather contemplative and pleasant. The tour went on repeating year after year, and the first places began to compete, to improve the brands and to be cheered by their friends from the road. Dionisio did not want to compete, but to pay tribute to the river, and thanks to his position that did not become a simple career.
More than fifty years after the origins of the competition, and after the test was consolidated at all levels, a couple of Australians J. Jacoby-Ramon Andersson with 1988, they left an indelible mark, a record that was on track to be unbeaten: one hour, six minutes and thirty-six seconds in completing the 17 kilometers that separate Arriondas de Ribadesella (the most powerful section of an extraordinarily beautiful river, with a natural course of sixty kilometers of splendid nature). But in the year 2009 Julio Martínez ratified his reign with his eleventh win in K-2, along with the Asturian paddler Miguel Fernández Castañón, establishing a new record of the test with a time of 1 hour, 1 minute and 14 seconds.
The Sella he persists unconsciously in the collective celebration, and in full popular merriment he often forgets that he is the main protagonist of the event. It is born in the Majada de Pozúa, in the Valley of Sajambre, in the Picos de Europa, and runs through the council of Cangas de Onís, Arriondas and Ribadesella, where it ends up for all purposes, with canoes and human mass included.
Party that accompanies the river begins in the early hours of the morning, when they leave for Arriondas the fluvial trains from Ribadesella and Oviedo crowded with people to see the exit. At eleven o'clock, the streets of this town begin one of the most attractive moments of the day, a multitudinous procession and touching the carnival of selleros with a thousand beads, walking or on board all kinds of rolling contraptions that pretend to follow the race to Ribadesella. the general highway parallel to the river.
Shortly before midday, the canoeists wait impatiently. After the ritual verses «Keep the audience quiet, and listen to our word ...» that Dionisio de la Huerta read until his death in 1995; at twelve o'clock the departure is ordered.
The environment is electrified instantly, while at the same time more than a thousand canoes are thrown together to the river. From then on everything happens, many paddlers go to the water in their precipitation, canoes and oars are broken. Some are trapped in their bad fortune and a few are put in the lead, leaving graceful of a cardiac starting gun. The Sella, halfway, is usually two boats, three, four, five or six, never more. Many have been left behind, and now favorites or lucky are suddenly fighting each other, against their own strength and fortune. When someone starts to get a few meters ahead there is little to do unless misfortune comes in their way. Numerous Seals have been disputed until the last meters, under the same goal bridge of Ribadesella, and Sellas have been won by just a hand's breadth.
The Sella of 2004 years will go down in history because the K2 formed by Julio Marínez (11 times champion of Sella) and Emilio Merchán, defeated his adversaries running for a stretch of the river, the Island of the Apothecary, a few meters from the arrival, opening new sports possibilities to the test.
In recent years, Walter Bouzán takes over from Julio Martínez winning 9 Sellas, 7 of them in K2 and consecutively next to his partner Álvaro Fiuza.
In the female category, the absolute record is held by the Palencia Mara Santos, who has won in twenty-two editions of the descent.
At the finish line always awaits with anticipation. The megaphone announces that the English or South Africans are standing out, or that there is a closed fight between the Portuguese and the Asturians ...
When everything concludes, following also the tradition inaugurated by Dionisio and by the pioneers of the Sella, the canoeists and the pilgrims move en masse by train or road until the Fields of Ova, three kilometers from the Villa Riosellana, where there is a multitudinous picnic, they take a nap under the poplars, they watch the folkloric groups, they dance a little and they give the trophies to the champions of all the categories.
But there's still another Sella in this chameleon party, the Sella that overflows Friday and Saturday night in Ribadesella and Arriondas, and that every year beats, like the sports event, all the predictions in number and delivery.
The party of the pirogues
The nocturnal Sella it is a very hard race, in which more than 100.000 «dancers» try to synchronize their effort to be able to arrive the next day without having stopped dancing for a single moment.
The two villages are flooded with lives, like Cantabrian venias, full of human channels through which the passions circulate. The athletes of the night form human whirlpools in the vicinity of the urban area, and many, to most, seems not to pass bill hours and hours of pursuit sellero.
As the night progresses, by contagion, they go through moments of collective pájara, but there are the «Disc-jockeys» in his work as helmsmen, so that the great ship follows the course of his own enthusiasm: "Remen, Remen!" Down the river, until dawn. The nocturnal Sella is a giant galley, floating in an immense outdoor setting, where muscles and vitality are put to the test. And in the great disco, mixed with your audience, you can see all kinds of sculptural paddlers of both sexes.
Someone once said that the social essence of "sellism" is a kind of singular atmosphere, difficult to describe because everything is in the epic environment that is lived. He comes to feel that anything can happen; is the principle of entropy, a spiral of emotions where you can meet number of people for any reason and without conventional excuses.
Text: © Ramón Molleda for desdeasturias.com