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extreme ironing

also EI noun [uncountable]

an extreme sport which involves taking a battery-powered iron and an ironing board to a remote or dangerous location and ironing some items of clothing

extreme ironer also extreme ironist

noun [countable]

extreme iron

verb [intransitive]

'The same competitive instincts which used to drive men in this age group to outdrink and outsmoke their peers are now leading them to out-iron them. The most extreme cases are the devotees of a movement called Extreme Ironing, whose members specialise in pursuing their curious hobby in extraordinary places: on a surfboard, or half way up a mountain, for instance.'

The Guardian 13th December 2001

'Team member Phil Shaw said: "After our victory at the Extreme Ironing World Championships in 2002, I knew there was no other place for us to go but America. We liken it to the last unconquered territory. If you haven't extreme ironed here, you haven't truly mastered the art."'

www.ananova.com 2004

'Although they find many of America's landmarks to be pressing challenges, all three veteran Extreme Ironers agree that the experience should be seamless.'

Rowenta press release 12th May 2004

Most of us curb the boredom of wading through the pile of unironed laundry by listening to the radio or watching the TV, unaware that in doing so, we are missing out on the thrills of a new extreme sport, the practice of extreme ironing. Armed with a cordless iron, ironing board and a few items of laundry, participants scale the heights of mountains, trek through forests, surf, ski, canoe, snowboard or do just about anything which enables them to iron in the most bizarre situation or location. In April 2003, two British climbers set an altitude record for the sport, when they ironed a union flag at 17,800 feet up Mount Everest!

for the extreme ironer, achievement in the sport is measured in terms of the extreme conditions or challenges implied
by the location

The countable nouns extreme ironer and extreme ironist have been coined to describe those who engage in the sport, and there is some evidence for use of an intransitive verb, to extreme iron. For the extreme ironer, achievement in the sport is measured in terms of the extreme conditions or challenges implied by the location, rather than the quality of the ironing itself! The sport originated in Britain, but has recently taken off in the USA and Australia, where a spin-off variety, termed extreme underwater ironing has been launched.

Background – extreme ironing

The originator of extreme ironing was Phil Shaw of Leicester in the UK, humorously known in EI circles as Steam. Back in 1997, struggling to decide whether to spend his day off dealing with his laundry inside, or rock climbing outside, Shaw began ironing in his back yard. This was to be the beginning of a life-changing activity for him – why not combine laundry and outdoor pursuits? Since then, Shaw and his contemporaries have embarked on a worldwide recruitment campaign for the sport, touring New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and the United States. After a chance encounter with thrill-seeking German tourists in New Zealand, an international organisation for the sport was founded, and in 2002 the first Extreme Ironing World Championships took place near Munich. Shaw is currently campaigning for extreme ironing to become an Olympic sport, and has launched a website for enthusiasts – www.extremeironing.com.

by Kerry Maxwell, author of Brave New Words

This article was first published on 9th July 2004.

Open Dictionary


a form of location that involves the underwater detonation of a bomb which causes sound waves that are picked up by ships

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