Does extreme ironing promote unsafe competition?

Bailee Quinn

Though obscure, extreme ironing’s nature of nonconformity has inspired thousands around the world. The sport, which was spurred into existence in 1997 by a man from Leicester, England, is completely unconventional. The sport has gained a reputation for its absurdity, and public opinion is split on whether the sport is legitimate or not.

Extreme ironing’s title is self-explanatory. Participants travel to various places and put themselves in dangerous situations, all while ironing clothes. The originator of this sport, Phil Shaw from Leicester, England, began simply by ironing his clothes in his garden.

His actions inspired a new wave of daring competitors. Everywhere from standing at the peak of cliffs to surfing precarious waves, people found creative ways to iron their clothes and earn their status as extreme ironers.

Some official competitions even developed after the sport surged in popularity. In 2002, the first Extreme Ironing World Championship was held in Germany and featured competition between twelve different groups. The groups competed for the title of champion extreme ironer.

Other groups and extreme ironing world records began to surface after a documentary titled Extreme Ironing: Pressing for Victory was released shortly after the world championship was held. Additionally, Phil Shaw wrote Extreme Ironing, a novel that was published in 2003.

If its international breakthrough wasn’t enough, extreme ironing was dubbed an official sport by De Montfort University in 2016. The university, located in Leicester, also established the DMU Extreme Ironing Club.

One of the world records set was the record for the number of people simultaneously ironing underwater. The record was broken in March 2008 and was completed by a group of 72 divers.

Later, on March 28, 2011, the previous record was overthrown by the De Waterman diving club from Oss, Netherlands. The group of 173 divers ironed in an indoor swimming pool.

Although De Montfort University has crowned extreme ironing as an official sport, some believe otherwise. Bystanders of the sport believe that it is purely satire, and that the risks that competitors go through to make status gains are unnecessarily dangerous.

Competitors of the sport claim that the risk aspect of extreme ironing is what makes the sport so exhilarating. Additionally, once the stunt has been performed, the participant can enjoy the satisfaction of a newly-pressed shirt.