The sport that is Extreme Ironing is an outdoor activity that combines the danger and excitement of an “extreme” sport with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt. It involves taking an iron and board (if possible) to remote locations and ironing a few items of laundry. This can involve ironing on a mountainside, preferably on a difficult climb, or taking an iron skiing, snowboarding, or canoeing.
The story of extreme ironing began in 1997 in the city of Leicester. Phil returned home after a long day in the knitwear factory and the last thing he wanted to do was start on a pile of ironing. Deciding that regular ironing was a bit too boring he first took it out into the garden. When his housemate Paul came home and asked what he was doing, Phil replied, “extreme ironing”.
The two adopted the monikers Steam and Spray and persuaded friends to join them in their outdoor ironing adventures. Steam founded the Extreme Ironing Bureau (EIB) to promote and develop the sport. From there it was taken all over the country, and when the website was finally launched EI was taken up all over the world.
Steam’s chance meeting with a German called Kai at the millennium celebrations in New Zealand was to prove pivotal to the sport’s development. Kai took the extreme ironing name Hot Crease and founded the German Extreme Ironing Section (GEIS).
After running various competitions the two sections collaborated on the Extreme Ironing World Championships held in Munich in 2002. The individual competition was won by a German ironist, Hot Pants, with the team trophy taken by Steam’s own team, GB1.
The championships marked the start of extreme ironing getting mainstream media attention, becoming the subject of a Channel 4 documentary Extreme Ironing: Pressing for Glory, a DVD and book.
In 2004, Steam, Starch and Short Fuse toured the States, taking extreme ironing to Boston, New York, South Dakota and Wisconsin, after which Steam retired from the sport.
Since then extreme ironing has lived a life of its own, being taken to Antarctica, Mount Aconcagua, Mount Kilimanjaro and also been the subject of a series of world record breaking Scuba ironing events. You can read the various press cuttings online.
Now Steam has returned to the sport for one last iron. He’ll be joined by members of the Extreme Ironing Bureau for a new challenge: running a half marathon with a full board, ironing along the course with hot irons.
It all started in the city of Leicester in the UK, in the summer of 1997. I returned home after a long day in the knitwear factory, and the last thing I wanted to do was start on a pile of ironing. The sun was shining and I preferred the idea of an evening out pursuing my (somewhat unsuccessful) hobby of rock climbing. Then it occurred to me to combine these activities into an extreme sport — the result: extreme ironing.
From there it was taken all over the country, and when the website was launched EI was taken up all over the world.
Budding extreme ironists are advised to start ironing in the safety of their back garden, before progressing to mountainsides, woods, or public places. The basic equipment is an iron and board. Ironists are also advised to take full safety equipment such as harnesses, ropes, and helmets where appropriate.
Domestic ironing is usually done indoors — fairly boring right? Well, the first step is to take it outside and add a bit of risk. This might mean ironing on a particularly difficult mountain climb, or taking your iron and board 20 metres underwater with full scuba gear. The only limit is your imagination. Just remember to plan your extreme ironing carefully. Pay attention to weather conditions, as they change quickly in the mountains, and never extreme iron on your own. The nature of some extreme iron sessions is such that it would be foolhardy to attempt them without backup.
In the beginning, extreme ironists used (very long) extension cords, but soon realised that unless they wanted to be limited by taking a generator with them, a new solution would be needed. Starch and Hotplate are at the forefront of battery powered irons, whilst in Germany, Dr Iron Q has developed geothermics, a method of tapping into the earth’s energy supply to power the iron — with mixed results.
Extreme Ironing, the book, was written by the sport's founder, Steam, and features 96 photos of the most extreme calibre. Published by New Holland Publishers on October 1, it will be available through Amazon.com