World Sauna Championships
World Sauna ChampionshipsBy: © Michael J. Rosen 2014
"This Is How Hell Must Feel"
The best competitions make leisure into sport, like turning an afternoon of watching flicks into a movie marathon. In Finland, where there are 1.5 million saunas for 5 million people, organizations of World Sauna Championships did just that with the first competition in 1999. Annually, over 160 competitors from nearly 25 countries travel to Heinola, to see who can endure the longest, hottest sauna.
According to the official site, all entrants must assume the same position: sitting erect with buttocks and thighs on the seat, forearms on the knees, and arms upright, with the hands touching no other part of the body. Turns out, a 230-degree Fahrenheit wooden box that grows hotter every 30 seconds as water is poured onto the sauna's stove, can make a person look as if "a waffle iron had been repeatedly pressed" against the skin, as one competitor described it. As heat and steam increase, there's less and less oxygen to breathe: Indeed, it's not the heat, but the humidity that drives competitors from the sauna.
One other competition bylaw: "Disturbing the other competitors in any way is strictly forbidden," although it's tough to imagine anyone making jokes about "not knowing your heinie from Heinola" after 18 minutes and 15 seconds - Finn Bjarne Hermansson's winning time in the 2008 competition.
It's Not the Heat, It's the Stupidity
This customized thermometer, in degrees Fahrenheit, should help you appreciate the heat-seeking nature of these temperature-taunting athletes.
This competition sounds like no sweat? Think again.
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World Sauna ChampionshipsBy: © Paul Dodson 2014
Only a country that lays claim to the origin of competitive air guitar and plays host to an annual wife carrying championships could seriously hope to pull off this event without as much as a titter. Welcome to the World Sauna Championships yet another funky Finn festival from the craziest spirit in the Scandinavian cocktail.
Each August since 1999 the Finnish town of Heinola has hosted this most Scandinavian of events and not surprisingly, each year it has grown in popularity.
The competition's title probably gives the game away but for those who crave detail, here goes. Competitors must sit in a 110-degree sauna, while half a litre of water is added to the sauna's hot stones every 30 seconds. The winner is the person that remains seated the longest.
But there's a bit more to it than just this. The Finns take their saunaing seriously and have a range of rules to ensure that their competition is conducted in the true Scandi spirit of sauna. Amongst them, and I quote from the World Sauna Championships website here:
- The competitors will have to sit in the sauna with buttocks and thighs on the seat. Posture must be erect; forearms must stay on the knees and arms have to be in an upright position. Touching skin with hand is forbidden.
- Disturbing the other competitors in the sauna in any way is strictly forbidden.
So if you've always admired your tolerance for temperature, have the ability to sit motionless under adverse conditions and possess the self-control not to annoy your neighbour however tempting, maybe you could wear the World Sauna Champion's crown. Be careful donning it though, it's probably going to need a good ten minutes to cool down.