Extreme Ironing: The Agony of 'Da Crease'

This is a partial transcript of The Big Story With John Gibson, October 16, 2003, that has been edited for clarity.

JOHN GIBSON, HOST: The thrill of victory, the agony of “da crease.” Extreme ironing (search), ironing, not irony. Not exactly your everyday sport…

Folks pressing their laundry at 20,000 feet, underwater, in a tree. Somebody has probably tried it, to each its own.

Phillip Shaw (search), better known as "Steam," invented the sport six years ago. And Mr. Shaw, or Mr. Steam, that's today's big question. Why not just send your laundry to the cleaners?

STEAM, EXTREME IRONING: Sending your laundry to the cleaners is so boring. Why not take it outside to an extreme location and do extreme ironing?

GIBSON: Well, why don't you fill us in, what do you do?

STEAM: Extreme ironing is the latest danger sport that combines the thrill of an extreme outdoor activity with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt, so it basically involves ironing in extreme locations.

GIBSON: We're seeing somebody out in a stream. Can you give us an idea of what other kinds of extreme locations you go to?

STEAM: Well, you can combine extreme ironing with any extreme sport, so you could do it on the side of a mountain, while scuba diving, while riding a mountain bike. The only limit is your imagination.

GIBSON: I can't tell from the pictures, but it appears the irons are actually not functional and you're not getting a pressed shirt out of this.

STEAM: Oh, no. The irons are functional.

GIBSON: Well, how could you iron underwater?

STEAM: Well, ironing underwater is a challenge, but certainly in our world championships that we had last year, we developed a system that had a chemical formula at the bottom of the sole plate which, when you applied water, heated it up. So it is possible. It's not as good as a normal iron, but it does work.

GIBSON: Now how many people participate in this sport?

STEAM: Well, it is a sport. It is a niche sport at the moment. We estimate that between 500 and maybe up to 1,000 people take part.

GIBSON: Are there extreme ironing clubs?

STEAM: Well, there's not really official clubs as such. We have our own Web site and people meet there and send in pictures. And there are some sorts of unofficial clubs springing up all the over the world.

GIBSON: I'm getting the impression that this is a television show, because there seems to be a lot of video of this. Are you on TV with this?

STEAM: Not really. We did do a documentary here in England last year, so that's why we have a bit of footage knocking around. But it's not an official sort of television thing. It's just a sport that people do for the fun of it.

GIBSON: What is it that Steam does in real life? That would be you. I don't mean steam-steam. I mean you.

STEAM: I'm an IT consultant by trade, but I do extreme ironing on the weekends.

GIBSON: So, there are no professionals in extreme ironing, people who do this all week long, 40 hours a week, nine to five?

STEAM: No. The sport hasn't quite taken off to that extent yet. We're all still amateurs in the strictest sense.

GIBSON: Is this one of those — I mean, you know, I think we've all seen enough Monty Pythons to know that there is somehow a streak that runs in the British people to just do something silly. Is this falling in that general category of silly things that only the Brits get involved in?

STEAM: Well, some people might think it's silly, but we just enjoy having fun ironing outdoors. And the fact that other countries have taken it up means that it's not just peculiar to the British.

GIBSON: Well, have you sold the Americans on this yet?

STEAM: Not yet. It's just starting to get attention in America. There's a few states that have taken it up, I think California and Ohio and Colorado, some that I can think of. But it's not hit the big time yet in America.

GIBSON: It has not hit the big time. Where else besides Britain has it hit the big time?

STEAM: It's very well known in Germany, where we had the world championships last year. But it's also quite popular in South Africa, Australia, Austria, New Zealand.

GIBSON: All right. Phillip Shaw, better known as Steam, not Sting. Steam. Invented the sport of extreme ironing. Thanks very much. Appreciate it.

STEAM: Thanks.

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