) is an extreme sport
and a performance art
in which people take an ironing
board to a remote location and iron a few items of clothing
. According to the official website, 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 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; whilst parachuting; and under the ice cover of a lake. The performances have been conducted solo or by groups.
The Guardian said of extreme ironing that it carries on a tradition of British eccentricity.
Before heading into the mainstream, extreme ironing was used by the band Monster Magnet
in the video for their song "Negasonic Teenage Warhead
" from their album Dopes to Infinity
(1995) (this usage was most likely unintentional, as the video features the band members performing perfectly ordinary activities on asteroids). However, purists of the sport will claim that it was started in 1997 in Leicester
, East Midlands
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 of America
, New Zealand
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
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 programme followed the British team's efforts and eventual Bronze and Gold placings in the first international extreme ironing contest 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 2003, Phil Shaw released a book published by New Holland Publishers, also entitled Extreme Ironing. The following year saw the release of a DVD titled Ironing Under the Sky, which was produced by Hot Under the Collar (HUTC) Productions. A follow-up documentary was made in 2004, this time by RDF and HUTC, which was aired on Sky's Adventure One channel the following year.
In 2003 the Rowenta Trophy was won by a group from South Africa by ironing across a gorge at the Wolfberg Cracks.
In 2004, the EIB traveled to the US on the Rowenta Tour to recruit additional ironists and ironed at Mount Rushmore, New York, Boston and Devils Tower.
In March of 2008, a team of 72 divers simultaneously ironing underwater set a new world's record for number of people ironing underwater at once.
Extreme Ironing has inspired other forms of unusual extreme activity, such as Extreme Cello Playing.
References in popular culture
On the August 2
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 Sydney Morning Herald
, Calcutta Telegraph
, The Wall Street Journal
, The Washington Post
, Toronto Star
, TIME Magazine
, The Financial Times
, and CNN.com
It is said to have inspired "urban housework", in which people vacuum the outdoors, and Extreme Cello playing.