Who ever thought housekeeping could be thrilling? Certainly, nobody could fathom risking their lives while ironing a shirt. But that’s exactly what extreme ironists do! Yes, Extreme Ironing is an actual spot, a very popular one at that. Every year, athletes try to one-up each other in some of the most bizarre, adventurous, and risky stunts with ironing boards and laundry piles you could ever imagine. Let’s delve a bit deeper into this weird extreme sport.
What is Extreme Ironing?
Extreme ironing is a bizarre sport in which players take an ironing board, and an iron to dangerous places and iron their clothes there. The more bizarre and stranger the place, the better. So far, athletes have tried ironing shirts at mountain tops, at cliffsides, while surfing, canoeing, and even sky diving! Moreover, a group of ironists even made a world record for ironing underwater in swimming pools. If you thought underwater hockey was weird, this truly takes it another step further.
History & Origins
There are two versions of the origin story of Extreme Ironing. According to the first, in 1997, Phil Shaw, a British man, came home after a hard day’s work at the knitwear factory. Although he was tired, he still had a pile of laundry to iron. Tired and bored, he decided to change up his routine and take the ironing board outside to his backyard to make boring chores fun.
Later, Shaw teamed up with his friend Paul Cartwright to go on ironing adventures. Together, they completed several adventurous ironing stunts such as ironing while climbing trees, skiing, and rock climbing. A few years later, in 1999, Shaw officially adopted the stage name “Steam” and went on an International tour to promote extreme ironing as an official sport.
During his tour, he visited the US, Fiji, New Zealand, South Africa, and Australia. This endeavor was met with success when Steam inspired a German Tourist he met in New Zealand. This encounter led to the formation of the “Extreme Ironing International Bureau” – the official governing body for this sport worldwide.
The second version credits Tony Hiam, also a British man with the invention of this game. As the story goes, in 1980 Hiam saw his brother iron his clothes during a camping trip and realized the fruitlessness of it. To prove that maintaining ironed clothes while doing outdoor activities is futile, he purposefully performed ironing demonstrations at bizarre spots like airport terminals, mountain tops, phone booths, etc. Legend has it that Tiam kept an ironing board and an iron in his car trunk to be prepared to iron whenever he encountered a weird place.
Official players and the governing body believe the first version to be more authentic.
How does it work? Extreme Ironing Rules
It is as simple as it gets. To participate in the Extreme Ironing Sport, all you have to do is take your iron and ironing board to unusual places and iron an item of clothing. Usually, you need to record your experience on film and get it authorized by the Extreme Ironing Bureau for it to be considered official. Here are some key rules you need to follow.
- Ironists are required to use only real, standardized irons made of steel. In places where electric power is not available, using cordless steam or coal-powered iron is allowed.
- The ironing board must be a commercially available model. It must have legs and be 30cm x 1m long.
- There are no limitations on places for extreme ironing. You can take your ironing wherever you want. It is better if it is more original, unusual, creative, and entertaining.
- Similarly, you can take any item of clothing you want on this adventure. Commonly, players stick with t-shirts, towels, handkerchiefs, etc.
- Ironists are judges on their creativity and the quality of their pressed clothes.
- Since injuries in extreme sports are fairly common, every ironist must take the necessary precautions to avoid injuries and fatalities in case of accidents. Paramedics and rescue officers must be on standby.
World Extreme Ironing Championship
In 2002, the first and only World Championship for Extreme Ironing was held in Bavaria Valley in Munich, Germany. A total of 12 teams from ten different countries competed in this championship, mainly from Austria, Chile, Croatia, Australia, Germany, and Great Britain.
There were 5 different categories in which participants had to compete in.
- Urban – in/on/around broken-down vehicles
- Water – in a fast-flowing river.
- Forest – on top of trees
- Lauda – while wall climbing
- Freestyle – Players were free to do whatever they wanted to demonstrate their extreme ironing skills, the “anything goes” category.
All Competitors were tested in all these categories based on their skills, creativity, and the creases on the fabric. Additionally, several different fabrics were used in different tests. Players could compete individually or as a team.
Winners: Two teams from Great Britain won the Gold & Bronze medal. The individual prizes went to German Player, Chrissy Quaid 1st place; and Austrian player, Jade Dunn 2nd place.
Prize: The winning prize included washing machines and other household goods and appliances in addition to the trophy.
Famous Extreme Ironing Records You Should Know About!
There are many interesting and enthralling extreme ironing stunts that will not only entertain you but also question the sanity of the competitors. Regardless, they are sure to leave you astounded! So, here are a few noteworthy extreme ironing records you should know about.
- In 2003 – John Roberts, Ben Gibbson & Christopher Jowsey ironed a Union Jack above Mount Everest Base Camp at 5440 meters height.
- In the same year, a group of ironists from South Africa won the Rowenta Trophy for ironing at Wolfberg Cracks.
- In 2004 – a group from the Extreme Ironing International Bureau ironed at Mount Rushmore, Devils Tower, and more during a promotional campaign.
- In 2008 – a team of 72 divers set a world record for ironing simultaneously underwater.
- In 2009 – another team of 128 divers broke the previous record for the maximum number of people ironing at once underwater.
- This record was further broken by a team of 173 divers in 2011.
- In 2011, Jason Blair ironed at M1 Motorway.
- In 2012, Phil Shaw aka Steam – the pioneer of extreme ironing sport ironed while running at a marathon.
- In 2018, Roland Piccoli ironed underwater at 42m depth and set a record for ironing in the world’s deepest swimming pool.
Entertaining Fun Facts about this Weird Sport
- In 2003, a documentary called “Extreme Ironing: Pressing for Victory” was released covering the origins, popular ironists, and why this sport is so popular.
- Recently, in 2022, another documentary called “The Mad Austrian” featured the story and ambitions of one of the oldest players of extreme ironing – the 67-year-old Heinz Wieser. Weiser is a legendary ironist known for some of the most daring stunts in this sport.
- Early in the 2000s, a faction broke away from the EIB due to a rivalry. They formed the Urban Housework Group and tried to promote a similar household activity as an extreme sport – extreme Vacuuming or extreme vacuum cleaning. Sadly, their efforts were unsuccessful.
- This weird sport has inspired people to be creative and turn other regular activities into unusual extreme sports. One example is Extreme Cello Playing.
- Phil Shaw, aka Steam, also wrote a book called “Extreme Ironing” in 2005, to popularize this sport and make it more mainstream.
So, Is Extreme Ironing Daring or Dumb? Final Thoughts
There is no denying that this sport is fun and fascinating. However, there is also no refuting the fact that it is not for everyone. Watching ironists go to extreme lengths to perform stunts might be more entertaining than actually attempting them yourself. Truly, extreme ironing is only for hot-headed adventurers who are not afraid of taking risks. Moreover, the chances of injuries and accidents are also high. Not to mention, as seen in many of the stunts mentioned above, ironing clothes is kind of pointless. So, to conclude it all – we’ll say Extreme Ironing sports are both daring and dumb!
Have a favorite Extreme Ironing Stunt we forgot to mention here? Share with us in the comments below!