This festival started out as a form of entertainment that suddenly came to Dionisio de la Huerta Casagrán from Barcelona. He was the son of an Asturian, and he was returning to spend the summer of 1929 in Coya (Infesto, Asturias). This activity has since become an athletic and festive affair, full of activities of all kinds. This festival is centered around the Descenso del Sella (or Fiesta de las Piraguas), which brings thousands of participants, canoeing-lovers, and spectators from all around Spain together in the last 20 km of the Sella River (between Arriondas inland and Ribadesella on the coast).
This festival’s story begins in Barcelona. From Barcelona, De La Huerta took the train to Madrid, and from there, he took another train to Asturias. Along the road from the Barcelona train station, there was a foldable canoe that exhibited the magazines El Siglo. He had already spent a few days in the reservoir of El Molino, and a few days later, he went down the Pilona River, a tributary of the Sella. He was with some friends: the doctor Benigno Morán and the young Manés Fernández, who was in a homemade K-1 with side floats. They spent two and a half hours traveling around five km on the river between Coya and Infiesto. By regaling this story, De La Huerta convinced another friend, Alfonso Argüelles, to join them in going further down the river to Arriondas. He floated down the river in a canoe with side floats while a group of friends followed him in a car. They stopped a few times to empty the water that had gotten in the boat and rest, spending the night in Soto de Dueñas. They had not reached their intended destination, but they had spent more than seven hours having the time of their lives immersed in nature.
In the following year, 1930, they celebrated what is considered to be the first Descenso del Sella. Some say they went from Infiesto to Ribadesella, but others say they went from Infiesto to Soto de Dueñas. De La Huerta, Argüelles, and Fernández spent another seven hours in the river, stopping a few times to share the experience with 14 friends who were following them on the road. In 1931, the excursion left from Soto do Dueñas and traveled down the Sella until they reached Ribadesella, which was a journey of 25 km that took four hours and 12 minutes. In the following year, they decided on the permanent route: between the bridges of Arriondas and Ribadesella, which measured 19 km and took five hours. Thirty rowers, coming from Gijón, Ribadesella, Infiesto, and Oviedo, took part in the first competitive year of the celebration. The winners of this race were the veterans Antón Durán and César Sánchez, spending an hour and 53 minutes in a Canadian boat measuring 6 meters long and weighing 50 kg.