Celebrating sauna aufguss with the best in Europe

By Sarah Camilleri


By Sarah Camilleri

28 February 2023

Celebrating the power of aufguss sauna ceremonies, the cream of the world’s sauna masters gathered at Norway’s premier spa destination Farris Bad, for the first ever Friends Challenge, which took place from February 23-25.

This unique event – organised by Riccardo Marzi and his team at aufguss training specialist supported by the Italian Sauna and Aufguss Association (AISA) – saw the best sauna masters from Europe and beyond demonstrate their ceremonial skills. Three competition days were sponsored by German sauna experts EOS and essential oil suppliers Loyly Masters and Bergila.

[Photos: Ryszard Rak, Wellness Multimedia | Video: Miłosz Nycz, Wellness Multimedia]

From left: Farris Bad's Lasse Eriksen, European Spa's Sarah Camilleri and Poland's Maciek Piczura, reigning singles aufguss world champion

Hosted by Farris Bad spa hotel and spa and wellness expert Lasse Eriksen, 16 competitors each presented a 12-minute three-set piece that was judged by five of their peers and also marked by themselves.

A spirited, yet friendly competition, expertly compered by legendary aufguss trainer Lay Pang Ong, produced some extraordinary performances – every competitor relishing time together to share, inspire and demonstrate the magic of classic aufguss.

Champions of fire and ice

Using a deep knowledge of heat, steam and movement, aufguss sauna ceremonies involve choreographed sets of open and closed towel waving sequences as well as essential oil blends, to make an unforgettable sauna experience. Therapeutic and fun, aufguss is social spa’ing at its best and for some it is a way to honour the sauna as a sacred space.

Guests who travelled to Farris Bad for the Friends Challenge witnessed an extraordinary array of aufguss styles at the highest level over three competition days. Each performance took place in the spa’s stunning 116-seater event sauna, the largest in Norway, with dips in the Skagerak Sea to cool down and complete the experience.

Aufguss legend Lay Pang Ong compared the ceremonies

Lighting up the Nordic skies

The much-deserved winner after three intensive days of competition was Polish world champion Lukasz Dluzniewski, who was recognised for his heartfelt performance entitled Aurora.

Dluzniewski’s depiction of the Northern Lights was delivered with soul and effortless skill, demonstrating how 15 years’ service as both a sauna master and world class trainer have made him an inspirational performer.

Lukasz Dluzniewski, overall winner of the Friends Challenge held at Farris Bad

He told European Spa: “This title means a lot to me because its true recognition of classic aufguss, which is our foundation, the real roots of all sauna performances. Without roots you cannot grow to a magnificent tree.” he said. “Also, to be judged by friends who I respect – people who love aufguss and really understand how hard it is to do – makes this title one of the most important I have won in my entire career.”

Second placed in the Friends Challenge was Sigrid van Rijswijk, former teams world champion

Swans, sweat and Nordic spirit

Dutch champion Sigrid van Rijswijk took second place with her flawless swanlike performance, which carried a unique air of peace and mastery of space.

Third place was awarded to up-and-coming 22-year-old aufguss star Ryuki Ikeda from Japan, for his sizzling, yet classic set embellished with tricks. A dedicated student of Dluzeniewski, Ikeda is now making waves in Japan with his growing aufguss social media following.

From left:'s Riccardo Marzi and Enrico Ganassin with winners Lukasz Dluzniewski, Ryuki Ikeda and Sigrid van Rijswijk

Other notable presentations included Polish champion Karolina Jarzabek for her captivating Magic Night show and Hungarian champion Evelyn Farkas, whose elegant classic aufguss flowed through every performance.

High-octane performances were also given by Romanian champion Andrei Robert Serban and Poland’s Maciek Piczura. The sacred magic of Norway was presented by Sarah Matilda Ryskova, who beautifully captured the spirit the rich history of Farris Bad’s magical Nordic location.

From left: training specialists Fiorenzo Ganassin, Enrico Ganassin and Riccardo Marzi

Ceremonies of ice and fire

Commenting on the success of the competition, organiser Marzi said: “We are extremely happy with the results of this, our first Friends Challenge. We had amazing feedback from all participants about the format of the event. Now it’s time to plan the second edition!”

“Aufguss ceremonies are increasingly popular in central Europe but have potential to spread worldwide to enhance many more spas, as guests look to more authentic, social and therapeutic ways to relax and stay healthy,” Lasse Eriksen told European Spa. “We see aufguss popularity embraced by the younger audience and workforce as a way of bringing the old global sweat culture forward into a new age.”

Evelyn Farkas performs her aufguss ceremony during the competition

Interested in finding out more about aufguss training and the growing aufguss community? Click below to connect with the leaders in sauna ceremony

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