Extreme Ironing coming to a crag or ski slope near you

What would you do if you wanted to head to the crags after work, but were instead staring at a pile of clothes that needed ironing? Blow off the ironing and go climbing? While that might be yours and certainly our first inclination, Phil Shaw, 31, is a Brit who believes you should multitask -- and he takes this very seriously.

What would you do if you wanted to head to the crags after work, but were instead staring at a pile of clothes that needed ironing? Blow off the ironing and go climbing? While that might be yours and certainly our first inclination, Phil Shaw, 31, is a Brit who believes you should multitask -- and he takes this very seriously.

Shaw claims to have founded the growing "sport" of Extreme Ironing in 1997 when after finishing his shift at a local garment factory he wanted to head off to the local crags before sunset. However, a pile of clothes was screaming "iron me" in his flat and could not be ignored, so his solution was to climb and iron at the same time -- we're not kidding.

The result is an official association, dubbed the Extreme Ironing Bureau, and an ever-increasing cadre of chapters cropping up worldwide. The website (www.extremeironing.com/) proclaims, "Welcome to the home of extreme ironing -- the latest danger sport that combines the thrills of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt."

The bureau boasts 1,500 members worldwide and is just now promoting itself to the U.S. market. The first world championships were held in 2002 and judged competitors on the difficulty of ironing location, efficiency of ironing technique, and how well they actually ironed. We can only assume wrinkles and creases out of line were serious point deductions.

Anyone can participate. All you need is a gas or battery-powered iron, a portable ironing board, some clothes that need ironing, and an appropriately adventurous and ridiculous place to set up shop. Competitors have actually ironed while big wall climbing, while on a kayak just off the coast of Iceland, and underwater off the coast of Australia -- we can only assume the clothes looked better wet.

The firsts are already racking up and we suspect once U.S. whackos (err, we mean athletes) get on board, and they will in droves, the ridiculous accomplishments, like ironing naked on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro (been there done that) will become mundane, inspiring ironing feats to become ludicrous -- ironing while dog sledding to the North Pole while naked perhaps?

Guffaws aside, we would be remiss as the leading voice for the outdoor industry if we did not point out that the growth in Extreme Ironing is certainly an opportunity for retailers, and we would imagine, manufacturers of travel irons. Merchandising displays could capitalize on the popularity of the sport, showing top athletes ironing in extreme places. Demos could be arranged, with local competitions organized for the benefit of charities. Sales of irons will skyrocket. Or not…

All of this assumes U.S. men and women actually discover what an iron is and what it is used for, and once they do, demonstrate an aptitude for its use. Once again, cultural influences threaten to derail economic progress. Perhaps we'd be better off modifying the sport a bit -- like Extreme Folding? Now that's something most of us can handle -- we think.


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