Extreme Ironing (also called EI) is an extreme sport and a performance art in which people take ironing boards to remote locations and iron items of clothing. According to the Extreme Ironing Bureau, extreme ironing is "the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt."
Part of the attraction and interest the media has shown towards extreme ironing seems to centre on the issue of whether it is really a sport or not. It is widely considered to be tongue-in-cheek.
Some locations where such performances have taken place include a mountainside of a difficult climb; a forest; in a canoe; while skiing or snowboarding; on top of large bronze statues; in the middle of a street; underwater; in the middle of the M1 Motorway; during a keirin race; whilst parachuting; and under the ice cover of a lake. The performances have been conducted solo or by groups.
Purists of the sport claim that it was started in 1997 in Leicester, East Midlands, England by resident Phil Shaw in his back garden. Shaw came home from what he recalls as a hard day in a Leicester knitwear factory. Preferring the idea of an evening out rock climbing, he decided to combine the two activities into a new extreme sport. In June 1999, Shaw, who uses the nickname "Steam", embarked on an international tour to promote the activity. The stops included the United States, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa. An encounter with German tourists in New Zealand led to the formation of a group called "Extreme Ironing International", and the German Extreme Ironing Section or GEIS.
As extreme ironing has branched off, the conditions can gain in extreme activity. For example, a branch of ironing has been developed that includes both bungee jumping and well-pressed clothing. Bungee ironing is what some would call the ultimate in the thrill of extreme ironing.
The "sport" gained international attention after a documentary entitled Extreme Ironing: Pressing for Victory, was produced for Britain's Channel 4 by Wag TV. The program followed the British team's efforts and eventual Bronze and Gold placings in the 1st Extreme Ironing World Championships in Germany. A side-story looked at the rivalry between the EIB (Extreme Ironing Bureau) and a breakaway group called Urban Housework who were trying to establish their own extreme sport based around vacuum-cleaning. The film later aired on the National Geographic Channel.
In March 2008, a team of 72 divers simultaneously ironing underwater set a new world's record for number of people ironing underwater at once.
On 10 January 2009, 128 divers including 6 freedivers, attempted to break the previous world record, managing to confirm 86 divers ironing within a 10 minute period. The event took place at the National Diving and Activity Centre (NDAC) near Chepstow, Gloucestershire, UK and was organised by members of the Yorkshire Divers internet forum. In addition to breaking the world record, the event raised over £15000 for the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
On 1 May 2010, a group of Dive Centers in Key Largo Florida are attempting to take claim of the record. The event is part of the Conch Republic Days in the Florida Keys and will be attempted by Keys Diver, Silent World Dive Center, and Captain Slates Atlantis Dive Center. The attempt will take place at the historic site of the Christ of the Abyss at Key Largo Dry Rocks.
On 28 March 2011 Dutch diving club De Waterman from Oss set the new (official) World record extreme underwater ironing. A group of 173 divers set the new world record in an indoor swimming pool in Oss in the Netherlands. Because of their 40 year anniversary the De Waterman organized this event.
In 2011, Extreme Ironing enthusiast William Hinton brought a new interest to the sport along America’s East Coast ironing many hikes along the Appalachian Trail as well as ironing numerous water activities including surfing and wakeboarding.
In 2012, Extreme Ironing founder, Steam, came out of retirement to take on a new challenge and run the Hastings Half Marathon in March wearing an ironing board, pressing garments on the way. In May, the mayor of Whitchurch, Hampshire pressed a ribbon before cutting it to open a newly built bridge over the railway line.
On March 24, 2013 Extreme Ironing came to the United States with the formation of the first-known American chapter of Extreme Ironing. Founding members Mike Kelsey, Matt Hicks, Caysey Herschaft and Erika Weinbacher (all of the meet-up group Hudson Valley Hikers) hosted an Extreme Ironing Inaugural Event in Ellenville NY. The group immersed themselves in ironing while hiking, caving, rock climbing, and bouldering amid snow, ice, and rock overhangs.Extreme Ironing America spread to Canada when club members ironed on rock and water while on a trek in Quebec in September 2013. They appeared on the radio on Hot 101.7 FM in San Francisco in April 2013 to explain Extreme Ironing and on NBC's TODAY Show on October 1, 2013 where TODAY show host Matt Lauer learned to Extreme Iron in various locations in Central Park, NYC including on a double-decker bus, row boat and bandshell.
References in popular culture
On 2 August 2004 episode of EastEnders, EI was referenced. According to the EIB, the characters made reference to the current altitude record holders. As the party-loving Kat and Zoe Slater are preparing to go out, they are invited to the launch party at Angie's Den by a couple of "media types". The pair say that there'd be celebrities in the shape of the Hot Plate Brothers there.
Extreme Ironing has been featured in news stories on CBS Sunday Morning, in The New York Times, The Sun, The Sunday Times, The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, The Sydney Morning Herald, Calcutta Telegraph, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Toronto Star, TIME Magazine, ESPN.com, The Financial Times, MTVu, and CNN.com.
EI was also featured in the children's book The Iron, the Switch and the Broom Cupboard by Michael Lawrence.
- "What is extreme ironing?". Team Steam
- Harper, Nick (2003-12-14). "Jazz, giants and ironing boards". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2006-02-16. "The idea, which combines the thrills of an extreme sport with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt, is thoroughly explained in this tongue-in-cheek manual..."
- "Man irons on the M1". Student Beans.com. Retrieved 18 April 2011.
- "Extreme Kerin Ironing". HighFlange.com. Retrieved 15 February 2010.
- Wollaston, Sam (2005-06-06). "O brother, where art thou". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-02-16. "That's because Phil is a star of Extreme Ironing (National Geographic, Saturday)."
- "Worldwide extreme ironing competition launched". Extreme Ironing Bureau. 2003-02-18.
- St Leonards' divers set underwater ironing record, Michaela Farrington, Geelong Advertiser, 31 March 2008.
- UK regains 'extreme' ironing record, BBC News (2009-01-21)
- Get your wetsuit, Trixie, it’s ironing day!, Reuters Blogs (2009-01-22)
- "Extreme ironing: man presses shirt on M1 motorway". Daily Telegraph. 2011-04-18.
- "Manic monday Morning on the M1". youtube. 2011-04-18.
- "Team Steam - Never say never". TeamSteam.org. 2012-08-01.
- "Newbury Road Bridge Opens". Whitchurch.org.uk. 2012-05-01.
- Shaw, Phil (2004-08-03). "Extreme Ironing on Eastenders". Extreme Ironing Bureau.
- Clarkson, Jeremy (2007-03-18). "Fiat Panda". The Times (London).
- Chivers, Tom (2008-04-01). "'Extreme ironing' on the sea bed in new record". The Daily Telegraph (London).
- Datta-Savage, Shormila (2004-01-03). "A pressing habit". Calcutta Telegraph (ABP Pvt. Limited). Retrieved 2006-02-16.
- Sucks Less With Kevin Smith episode 3.
- Daniels, Alison (2006-12-06). "Shortcuts: How to iron a shirt". CNN.com (Time Warner). Retrieved 2006-02-16. "If it's thrills you're after how about joining the (minority) sport of Extreme Ironing."
- Carter, Helen (2005-06-09). "Hit and Miss". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 2007-02-16. "A group of musicians from Yorkshire were so inspired by the craze for "extreme ironing" that they have invented Extreme Cello Playing."