Extreme Ironing: household chores gone wild

Can you iron your favourite shirt while hanging upside down from a cliff?

Many extreme ironing competitions include a rocky, water, and forest section. — Photo: Thefactsite

By: Ahmed Ali, Peak Associate

I, like many of my fellow students, dislike any kind of activity that can even remotely be defined as chores. Having said that, it’s a little ironic that I now find myself engrossed in extreme ironing: the only sport (sorry, extreme sport) in which people iron clothes, competitively, in all kinds of unconventional locations. From mountain tops to the sides of cliffs, to highways, forests, and underwater locations, extreme ironing is driven by the extremity of its fields of play. Some extreme ironing competitions have even taken place during go-kart races or skydiving

The sport can be played either solo or in groups and the requirements to participate in extreme ironing are to have “a full-sized board, a real iron, a garment larger than a tea towel, and footage of the extreme ironing experience.” Winners of Extreme Ironing competitions are judged on the quality of their ironing job on a given garment, the swiftness of completion, as well as on the perceived extremity of the location the garment was ironed in. 

Extreme ironing had a humble origin, and there are multiple conflicting claims to its origin. The earliest claim comes from 1980 when Tony Hiam, while living in England, was inspired by his brother-in-law, who ironed his clothes even when camping in a tent. Hiam’s response, in an effort to point out the absurdity of his in-law’s efforts to maintain a crisp shirt even while camping, was to start ironing in all kinds of even more unusual places, like mountain-lookouts, crowded airport departure lounges, and on top of telephone kiosks. Hiam and other pioneers, such as Phil Shaw, kept this absurd commitment to completing their chores in extreme places well into the 90s, during which the activity started to catch on and inspire international tours. In turn, this dispersion of videos of extreme ironing in its infancy inspired multiple documentaries from British media and National Geographic, which thrust the sport into further international prominence. It’s kind of funny that, in his quest to poke fun at unnecessary ironing, Thiam ended up turning it into a popular sport. Now, the renown of Extreme Ironing has even spawned and inspired many other sports, such as extreme cello playing and extreme vacuuming.

Thanks to extreme ironing, I now enjoy watching chores being completed, though I still am personally opposed to having to do any myself. Maybe it’s something about other people risking their lives to do something so mundane that makes it intriguing. Or maybe, I’m just looking for another thing to distract me while I procrastinate on my ever-growing list of chores.