The town of Icod de los Vinos in north Tenerife is in the centre of a wine producing area, with terraced slopes around the town full of vines growing in the rich volcanic soil.
Every November 29th on the eve of Saint Andrews day the town holds the festival of San Andres celebrating the new harvest, when the bodegas (wine cellars) open their doors for wine tasting of the years new vintage and braziers lit for roasting chestnuts.
At the end of the festival the town’s young people, fuelled by the new seasons wine, slide down the steep slopes of the town on improvised wooden sledges at breakneck speed, and crash into piles of tyres at the foot of the hill.
Bajada de las tablas
The riders see who can jump the highest over the bumps on the way down, before crashing into the makeshift tyre barriers in a ritual bordering on madness, any such activity in the UK would be banded under the health and safety rules.
The sledges are waxed to reduce friction to make them go as fast as possible, the riders have no head protection at all, with some riders using only thick industrial gloves giving any sort of safety protection.
This is a really risky ride, and the Red Cross are always on hands to tend to the injured when they tumble.
This tradition is known as the ‘bajada de las tablas’, and dates back to the days when logs were rolled down the hill from the forests above the town for making wine barrels and for ship building.
The logs were transported on large boards and steered using oars to avoid obstacles, barrels of wine were also transported by the same method to ships for export to Europe and the Americas.