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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Cleaning blurs with sport during Extreme Ironing

Published: January 25, 2008
Section: Sports

More often than not, people don’t enjoy taking out their ironing board, waiting for the iron to warm up, and spending countless minutes attempting to get rid of any wrinkles. What then, one may truly wonder, would provoke anyone to do just that—but on an extreme level?

Still, ask yourself this. What would you rather do: climb a treacherous mountainside, only to take an iron and ironing board, secure the board, and begin ironing a shirt or, perhaps, put on a scuba suit and dive to the bottom of the ocean just to get the wrinkles out? Or you could simply remain at home, waiting for your clothes to be ready at the dry cleaners? By choosing either of the first two options, you might just want to begin practicing for a new sport, yes sport, called Extreme Ironing.

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.”

Among the numerous places that people have ironed are the tops of large mountains, at a beach, in a canoe, under water, and in the middle of a street. I must, however, tip my hat to a few individuals with “creative minds”— ironing while on the back of a moving taxi in New York City and ironing while connected by a rope over a large ravine.

Unlike some of the other sports throughout the world, the origins of extreme ironing are quite clear. According to the Extreme Ironing website, the sport began in Leicester, UK, in the summer of 1997. After a long, tedious day at a knitwear factory, would-be founder Phillip Shaw, aka Steam, returned home to a pile of clothes that needed to be ironed. Trying to procrastinate, Shaw decided that the evening was perfect for a nice rock climb, one of his hobbies.

Like a light bulb turning on in his head, he realized that it might be interesting to combine the excitement of rock climbing with the often dull nature of ironing. Thus, the sport of extreme ironing was born. Over the years, extreme ironing has spread from its home in England to such places as Germany, Australia, and Japan.

By now, I’m sure many are wondering one of the most common asked questions: how do they actually power the irons? Well, initially, extreme ironists tried using very long extension cords. That, of course, soon developed into a major problem as no one was able to find electrical outlets on mountains or in forests.

Today, most extreme ironists use irons powered by batteries, thereby eliminating some extra weight and allowing them to reach new places that, before the advent of battery power, would seem impossible.

Interestingly, in 2002 a World Championship for extreme ironists was held in a village near Munich, Germany. The competition was divided into five main sections: urban, water, forest, rocky, and freestyle. In the end, German ironist Hot Pants, emerged victorious by winning the individual event, and a British team claimed victory in the team event.

Following the World Championship, the sport saw a dramatic rise in the number of countries fallen victim to its apparently addictive nature, including Austria, Croatia, and Chile. Currently, many people are calling for a second championship—a second occasion to win a title as top ironist and a second chance to show the world the true sport of extreme ironing.

For those who are thinking that I may have made this up, think again (Believe me, even if I tried, I couldn’t make something like this up). So go ahead, try searching YouTube for some interesting videos or, if you are daring, try Extreme Ironing yourself.