First UK aufguss champion is named at inaugural event

Aufguss sauna master Pavel Poliacek is crowned UK Aufguss Champion 2023 at Rudding Park Spa


The UK’s first aufguss champion has been selected at the inaugural Aufguss UK Competition, which took place at Rudding Park April 24-26.

After much sweat and cheers, aufguss master Pavel Poliacek was named as the UK’s new sauna master and will go on to represent the country in the upcoming Aufguss World Championships, set to take place at Satama Sauna resort, Germany, from September 11-17.

Finalists Renato Neto and Jena Robinson also won the Aufguss Team event and will attend the World Championship playoffs at Farris Bad, Norway.

Woman and man are giving a prize to a sauna competition winner
Aufguss trainer and judge Deborah Carr and Mika Meskanen, president of The British Sauna Society with Aufguss UK winner Pavel Poliacek

Hosted by Rudding Park’s head of spa, Sarah Johnson, and director, Matthew Mackaness, this pioneering spa event was sponsored by Design for Leisure and attended by founder Don Genders.

The championships were the brainchild of British aufguss trainer Deborah Carr and judge Lasse Eriksen, vice-president of Aufguss WM, and were supported by the British Sauna Society and

Zoe Douglas from wellbeing skincare specialist Natura Bissé also attended to provide restorative massages throughout the event.

Aufguss UK Singles Championship 2023 results

Overall winner: Pavel Poliacek, Galgorm – The Journey of Pavel


Second: Jena Robinson, Rudding Park Spa – Castaway


Third: Renato Neto, Rudding Park – The Journey


Finalist: Nicola Walker, Alpamare, Scarborough – Four Seasons


Finalist: Charlotte Daniels, Alpamare, Scarborough – Coffee Origins

The art of sauna

Spring sunshine shone throughout the two-day event, where five finalists presented competition aufguss performances. Each finalist was judged for professionalism, waving techniques, fragrance use and dosage, as well as theme, implementation and creativity.

Bringing their expertise to the UK, the international judging panel was led by Eriksen, Carr, aufguss champion and trainer Lay Pang Ong, and Heonsok Kim, vice-president of the Japan Sauna & Spa Association (JSSA) along with Hideo Yoshida, president of JSSA, who travelled in from Japan for the debut UK event.

two men enjoy sauna ceremonies one is wearing a sauna hat
Heonsok Kim and Hideo Yoshida of the Japan Sauna & Spa Association came to Rudding Park to join the judging panel for this special spa event

Taking guests on a journey

Taking first place, Pavel Poliacek, Galgorm Luxury Resort & Spa’s fitness and wellbeing instructor and sauna master from Northern Ireland, delivered a controlled, graceful and passionate performance entitled The Journey of Pavel. Rudding Park’s senior spa therapist, Jena Robinson, was given second place, for her captivating Castaway.

The award for third place, was presented to Rudding Park’s deputy spa manager and dedicated sauna master Renato Neto, who delivered a soulful and grounding performance using herb infusions sourced from Rudding Park’s own kitchen garden.

two men and three women are finalists of the first ever UK aufguss competition in a chapel
UK Aufguss Championship competitors Renato Neto, Charlotte Daniels, Jenna Robinson, Pavel Poliacek and Nicola Walker

Finalists Nicola Walker and Charlotte Daniels from Alpamare, Scarborough, also delivered notable performances to celebrate the magic of the seasons and the aromatic world of coffee, respectively.

A pathway to the world championships

Commenting on the finalists, Carr, said: “Firstly, I would like to extend a huge congratulations to all the participants that took part in the championships. The response and calibre of talent demonstrated was impressive given this is the first year the UK has competed in the championships and aufguss is still relatively new to the UK.

“I look forward to working both Jena and Pavel to help prepare for the play-offs in Farris Bad, Norway in September and the World Championships, which will be in Satama resort, Germany later in September.”

smiling woman and man in spa robes are sauna judeges
Deborah Carr and Lasse Eriksen judged the aufguss – or sauna ceremonies – which are designed to be social, fun and therapeutic

Show time with aufguss champions

For added inspiration, the event also featured sizzling shows from visiting aufguss champions Robert Zidek and Eliska Zidek Blazova, who flew in from the Czech Republic. Zidek, who is reigning Czech aufguss champion and 2022 modern Classic Champion, recently returned from Japan where he has been supporting the work of a new generation of Japanese aufguss masters as the art form gains popularity in there.

woman and man in green robes make heart shaped hands
Czech aufguss champions Robert Zidek and Eliska Zidek Blazova gave explosive demonstration performances at the first UK Aufguss Championship

His explosive performance at Rudding Park told the story of Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel’s invention of dynamite, which led to the scientist’s desire to leave a legacy of peace for the world.

Zidek Blazova turned up the heat with her skilful show which theatrically explored the stages of grief with a celebratory twist of life to end.

Rudding Park Spa celebrates aufguss

Commenting on the success of the event, Rudding Park’s director Matthew Mackaness told European Spa: “I experienced aufguss for the first time seven years ago in a ski resort in Austria and it was transformational. I knew that aufguss had to be part of our new spa offering here at Rudding Park when we opened in 2017. It really was a dream that became an obsession.

“We are so proud to host this inaugural Aufguss Championship, as we want Rudding Park to be part of the movement here in the UK, which we are very much at the beginning of,” he said.

Male director of Rudding Park hotel

“The words ‘aufguss’ and ‘sauna master’ need to be more prevalent in the UK spa industry and we are very excited to be part of a making this happen.”

Matthew Mackaness

Director, Rudding Park

Sarah Johnson, head of spa at Rudding Park added: “As the first UK spa to introduce aufguss we were thrilled to host this prestigious event and it was wonderful to see the creativity and passion of all the competitors.

“We are, of course, particularly proud of Jena Robinson and Renato Neto from our very own spa team who have been training relentlessly and have made it through to the play-offs in Norway.”

head of spa woman in spotted top

"As the first UK spa to introduce aufguss we were thrilled to host this prestigious event and it was wonderful to see the creativity and passion of all the competitors."

Sarah Johnson

Head of spa, Rudding Park

European Spa supports the aufguss movement

The art of aufguss – or sauna ceremony – is extremely popular with spa goers in Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, the Nordic countries and the South Tyrol, delivering the transformative power of steam and heat and the soulful service of the dedicated sauna master. To read about the recent Challenge as reported in European Spa magazine, click below


Aufguss movement gathers momentum

Mika Meskanen, founder of the British Sauna Society, said: “The British Sauna Society is excited about the success of the first UK Aufguss Championships, which now set the foundation to bring sauna experiences to the forefront of commercial spa investment.

“We look forward to growing this new movement together with businesses, wellness enthusiasts and aspiring Aufguss masters alike.”

amazing sauna master uses herb whisks to increase steam in sauna
Aufguss champion and trainer Lay Pang Ong joined the judging panel

A supporter of the aufguss movement worldwide, European Spa’s founder, Sarah Camilleri, said: “I am never happier than when my sauna hat is on! European Spa is proud to support the extraordinary grassroots efforts being made by many talented spa leaders and dedicated spa suppliers across Europe to bring the magic of aufguss to the wider world.

“Aufguss is a trend to watch and requires skill, dedication and commitment to master. Our huge congratulations to the first UK finalists who bravely took the plunge to train hard and compete at Rudding Park to represent their country.

woman in pink teeshirt performs sauna ceremony
Finalist Jena Robinson, senior spa therapist at Rudding Park, was awarded second place in the UK aufguss championships demonsatrates her aufguss skills

“The European Spa team and I would love to see many more UK spas compete next year. It really is a wonderful way to elevate talent in your team and create some magic in your spa.”

Deborah Carr added: “Aufguss provides a huge opportunity for UK spas to create new and unique immersive communal spa activities that offer genuine health and wellness benefits to clients.

“We’ve seen a huge spike in interest in our training courses in recent months from some of the UK’s most prestigious spas. With sauna culture rising in popularity in the UK, I believe we will only continue to see Aufguss sauna rituals emerging as a popular practise in more of our spas this year.”

Be inspired...

Design for Leisure (DFL) is a team of hydrothermal specialists who work with spa owners, operators, architects and designers to bring European-inspired hydrotherapy concepts to life. To find out more, click below

Be informed...

The British Sauna Society is a not-for-profit organisation that advocates for high-quality sauna experiences in the UK and supports the growth of home-grown British bathing culture. To find out more, click below

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