World Sauna Championships

My apartment neighbor and I had a yard sale yesterday.  Bad call, brutha.

It was sooooooooo humid!  I love summer and heat, but moist heat is just icky, unless you’re in a sauna (and it’s not 230°F…more on that later).   The temperature was only about 85°F when we started, but the humidity was 70%!  It was frakin miserable.  Luckily we have a North-facing apartment, so we were in the shade for the entire day, but still schweaty grossness ensued.  There were two …count ’em two… deodorant reapplication breaks yesterday.  Neighbor and I were hit on by one dude about three hours into the ordeal and we were thinking, “Man, how desperate must you be to think we look sexy right now?”

Our yard sale

But the good outweighed the bad.  Neighbor brought out frozen green and red grapes, which yesterday were a little slice of heaven.  By the end of the day we both had gotten rid of a lot of unnecessary junk, and as soon as we finished packing up the unsold items for Goodwill we went down to Lake Calhoun to go swimming.  The water was indescribably refreshing.  And Neighbor and I made enough money to go out for margaritas and Mexican food afterwards!

So we didn’t have it so bad.  I mean, you wanna talk humidity?  Instead of sitting in the shade eating frozen grapes, we could have been in the World Sauna Championships in Finland this past weekend. 

World Sauna Championship photo source

This “championship” seems to be less of a artful mastery of one’s chosen sport, and more a willingness to suffer extreme pain and injury in the name of being able to say “huh huh!  Look I did it!”  Look at these rules, from Wikipedia:


  • The starting temperature is 110 degrees Centigrade. Half a liter of water will be poured on the stove every 30 seconds.
  • Use of alcohol is prohibited prior to and during the competition.
  • Competitors must wash themselves beforehand, and remove any creams and lotions.
  • Competitor must sit erect, their buttocks and thighs on the bench.
  • Ordinary swimsuits must be used. Pant legs in men’s swimsuits may be up to 20 centimeters long, and women’s shoulder straps may be up to 5 centimeters wide.
  • Hair that reaches the shoulders must be tied into a ponytail.
  • Touching the skin and brushing is prohibited.
  • Competitors must not disturb each other.
  • When the Judges ask, competitors must show that they are in their senses with a thumbs up.
  • Competitors must be able to leave the sauna unaided to qualify.
  • A breach of the rules results in a warning. Another one results in disqualification.
  • The last person in the sauna is the winner.

All one has to do is sit still and endure heatstroke and skin burns.  This contest is so stupid, I’m amazed it didn’t originate in the US or Japan.  Seriously, at least in American Gladiators and Japanese game shows there’s some running around, balancing and wrestling.  Hell, even a lot of the Jackass stunts require more agility and physical prowess that sitting in a hot, steamy room and trying not to pass out. 

Well, now it’s over.  The World Sauna Championships have been suspended – probably for good.  Again, from

On 7 August 2010, Russian finalist and former third-place finisher Vladimir Ladyzhensky and Finnish five-time champion Timo Kaukonen, passed out after six minutes in the sauna, both suffering from terrible burns and trauma. They were both rushed to the hospital but Ladyzhensky died en route. Kaukonen was reported to suffer from extreme burn injuries, and his condition was described as critical, but stable.

I don’t know anything about the World Sauna Championship except what I’ve learned today.  And I’m all for people spending their time, money and physical health in whatever ways they like as long as it doesn’t hurt other people.  I’m not making a statement about the way this gentleman died; people die in professional sports all the time.  Athletes are aware of the calculated risks they take when they engage in their sports.  This is an unfortunate accident and I feel for the guy’s family, friends and those who enjoy the World Sauna Championship.

But if this “sport” seemed stupid before, doesn’t it just seem even more awful that it’s unentertaining and deadly?

World Sauna Championships
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31 thoughts on “World Sauna Championships

  1. 1

    Glad the yard sale went well 🙂

    Okay, oh my god…I didn’t eve know such “sports” existed…seriously, what the hell were they thinking. Glad it’s been stopped, hope it never starts again!

  2. 2

    This contest was never very popular, even in Finland. Most people thought it was a either a harmless joke or a tasteless perversion of the venerable sauna tradition. It was only now that everybody realized that it was actually quite dangerous. The event won’t be held for some time now, probably ever.

    Bathing in the sauna is generally safe and enjoyable, unless you try to stretch your limits. Unfortunately, there is also a tradition of some people (read: men with a macho complex) to compete in heat resilience. When they started publicizing it, a public tragedy was bound to happen.

    110 C with high humidity is quite extreme, though not immediately dangerous. Most Finnish sauna enthusiasts prefer 80-100 C at head level (it’s much lower at foot level). In most other countries, lower temperatures are appreciated.

    1. 2.1

      Hey, thanks for the input and for stopping by. About the venerable sauna tradition – I saw that the WSC was opposed by the Finnish Sauna Society, which is interesting. Makes me think of the difference between boxers and mixed martial arts contests, or traditional wrestling and “professional wrestling”.

      1. Indeed, that might be a good comparison, except that the sauna is not generally considered a sport but a relaxing/washing activity. The Sauna Society people can be somewhat uptight about tradition but most Finns who bathe in the sauna are not.

        Regards to my input, many Finns feel compelled to comment in a case of SITAFOTI (Someone Is Talking About Finland On The Internet). I’ll shut up now.

      1. I just made the whole acronym up, as a reference to the more universal SIWOTI syndrome (That is, commenting when “Someone Is Wrong On The Internet”. I love English internet slang.). I was joking about the fact that Finns always comment on any Finland-related international thread, proud of having their country mentioned and trying to make sure that everyone has a fair and balanced wiew of the issue at hand. I think it’s a bit ridiculous and still I occasionally do it myself.

  3. 7

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