Extreme ironing, an adventure sport for people who like laundry

Extreme ironing might be the coolest sport that didn't make it into the Olympics this year. Started over a decade ago by UK knitwear factory worker Phil Shaw, it requires four simple criteria: a man, an iron, an ironing board, and a crazy natural environment that makes people think, holy crap I can't believe he's ironing on that thing! Shaw calls extreme ironing "the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well pressed shirt."

I know it sounds silly, but some people take it very seriously, training for competitions by lifting irons like dumbbells and bench-pressing ironing boards. Not only do you have to have the stamina and athleticism to reach extreme conditions, but when you get there, you have to iron with finesse–it's a performance art, like dancing or gymnastics. Can you focus on a tiny crease in a shirt sleeve while balancing on one leg on a tree branch jutting out over a cliff? Didn't think so.

The guy who runs Extreme Ironing Japan has promised to let me witness a session next time I'm there, so I'll let you guys know when that happens.

bog snorkeling by Slitkicker.jpg
Images via the Extreme Ironing Bureau and Extreme Ironing Japan


  1. This is way better than the Extreme Irony festival in Brooklyn where everyone just stood around and snickered.

    1. I prefer byroning, the more sophisticated art of ironing while reciting Romantic poetry.

  2. #2: Actually, I’m pretty sure that these guys were the winners of the Brooklyn Extreme Irony festival.

    Or were you being ironic? ;)

  3. Yes, Ivan, numerous skydivers and BASE jumpers have already tried their hand at Extreme Ironing. Google it and you’ll come up with lots of pics and video.

  4. I was much surprised to see this more-or-less for real. Jon Armstrong describes an extreme ironing contest in his novel Grey, which I discovered a few months ago through a BoingBoing link.

  5. I’m wondering about that whole “plugged in” thing, myself. Do they have battery powered irons now or something?

  6. These photos offer a cathartic chuckle to the stress I felt trying to look civilized while living in a tent. I think this is my new favorite sport.

    When I lived in the bush years ago as a young lad, I heated my iron on the camp fire which was extreme ironing in itself since you had to be careful not to burn the fabric.

    Later I got a gen set and was able to use an electric iron with a rheostatic thermostat. It was like heaven to have a cotton setting.

    I don’t know what’s with the unplugged cords in the pictures. I don’t see how you’re going to get a nice crisp pleat that way. But I guess you have to understand these guys are professionals and know what they are doing. It must take years of dedicated practice to be this good.

  7. Xeo, such irons do apparently exist; a search for cordless irons gives quite a few results.

    However, I must also take issue with the assertion that these people are “ironing with finesse.” In most of the photographs I’ve seen, they aren’t ironing at all. The irons aren’t powered, and the clothes in many cases are positioned quite oddly. In most of the videos I’ve found, the ‘ironers’ simply seem to wave the iron around randomly, and press it against clothes in ways that wouldn’t be at all effective if one were actually ironing.

    I can see this as an amusing joke, but it does seem odd that despite the practicality of actually doing what they claim to be doing*, few, if any, really do iron.

    * Except for the bog one, which simply wouldn’t work.

  8. Shoot. I thought the link would lead to a gigantic chess board where boxers took the place of chess pieces, and knocked each other over at the whim or strategy of the chess masters…

  9. I can’t believe how excited some people get about ironing! Am I missing out? I was reading about the World Ironing Championships today – maybe I’ll take part! (You should too, if you know how to iron a shirt!)

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