...the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.
Extreme Ironing (EI) was created in 1997, when a particularly bored Phil Shaw returned from his job in a local knitwear factory in Leicester to be confronted by a large pile of ironing. Deciding that merely doing the ironing was far too tedious, he wanted to combine the housework with his other hobby, climbing. The two pastimes meshed surprisingly well, leading Phil to start considering where else he could iron, and he began practicing his moves in the back garden.
Phil's housemate, Paul was soon roped into the sport, and the pair decided to take the pseudonyms Steam and Spray to avoid public ridicule. Steam and Spray were the original ironists, and paved the way for all the other EI enthusiasts who were soon to follow. This pioneering duo unfortunately didn't last long as Steam found that Spray had been dabbling in Extreme Hairdressing, and confronted him, causing Spray to leave the organisation.
The 'sport' is controlled by the Extreme Ironing Bureau, which boasts members in England, New Zealand, Australia, the USA, Germany, France, Chile, Denmark, Austria, Finland, Iceland, Sweden and South Africa. It recently featured on They Think It's All Over, and has just held its first ever Extreme Ironing World Championships in Munich, after somehow managing to attract sponsorship from home appliance manufacturer, Rowenta. The event was won by Britain after the Leicester based GB1 team ascended the 5500ft Aiguillette d'Argentiere in Chamonix with an iron and ironing board, and proceeded to iron the team's towels.
There do seem to be some specialities within the sport including apres-ski, where competitors iron whilst skiing and the German invented Dessicant Sorption System where ironists iron underwater, using SCUBA gear. To truly appreciate the athletic ability, and sheer courage of these people, you really do have to see some of the photographs of their work.
Since its inception, EI fanatics have ironed up mountains, in rivers, on top of tall buildings, down mineshafts, and even on public transport. The benefits of the latest 'extreme' pursuit are clear. Good exercise. Fresh air. A sense of exhilaration. And really, really smart clothes.