What Is the Most Unlikely “Extreme” Sport?
When it comes to household chores, few would say that a pile of wrinkled shirts fills them with excitement. Many people dread having to get out the iron and ironing board, and even those who find ironing relaxing probably wouldn't describe this domestic duty as thrilling. Clearly, those people have never taken part in the sport of extreme ironing.
Whether or not extreme ironing is actually a sport is up for debate, but regardless of how this activity is classified, it's pretty impressive. As the name suggests, extreme ironing simply means ironing a shirt in a remote, challenging location. Real examples include on the top of a mountain, while running a marathon, on a busy highway, while parachuting, while snowboarding, or underwater. There is even an Extreme Ironing World Championships, first contested in Germany in 2002. Teams took part in urban, forest, water, climbing, and freestyle challenges and were judged on the creativity of their ironing skills. Creases were also taken into consideration, of course.
Extreme ironing got its start in England, although two men claim to have originated the sport – Phil “Steam” Shaw of Leicester and Tony Hiam of Yorkshire. Shaw is often given credit for his 1997 brainwave to get his chores done while also going rock climbing. Although many of the top "athletes" in extreme ironing come from the UK, the sport has truly become international, with participants in dozens of countries.
Taking ironing to the extreme:
- Extreme ironing gained significant popularity in 2003 with the release of the documentary Extreme Ironing: Pressing for Victory on Britain's Channel 4, about the hotly-contested Extreme Ironing World Championships. British teams took home the gold and bronze medals.
- If mashups of the adventurous and the sedate are your thing, you might be interested in the string ensemble Extreme Cello, or the sport of chess boxing.
- New Zealand extreme ironer Matthew Battley told MEL magazine that "it’s a somewhat pointless venture anyway since you tend to put the item you’ve ironed back into the bag after the ironing anyway, so any gains are short-lived." Nevertheless, Battley loves the sport, taking an iron and ironing board up to the summit of Mount Ruapehu. Helpfully, the volcanic rocks there are hot enough to heat up the iron.
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