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Extremely Unusual

Extreme sports abound but there’s one you may not have heard of -- extreme ironing. It’s been called ‘part sport, part spectacle,’ ‘a spoof sport’ and the curious advised that ‘it’s something you have to see to believe. ‘ But founder Phil Shaw views it simply as “an outdoor activity that combines the danger and excitement of an extreme sport with the satisfaction of a well-pressed shirt.”

It began in 1997 when Shaw, from Leicester, England and his roommate, Paul Cartwright decided to combine the chore of ironing with the thrill of their new hobby, rock climbing. A few pillowcases, sheets and mountain tops later, the ‘sport’ known today as extreme ironing (EI) was born. Shaw has become Steam and his new partner is better known as Starch. Together, they and a band of EI enthusiasts have seen the first world EI championships held in Europe in 2002 and in 2004 were at the forefront of a US tour as part of their campaign for Olympic recognition.

The concept is fairly simple. You start small (perhaps a foray to your backyard), with ironing board, iron and clothes to be pressed in hand and begin ironing. As you become more comfortable you up the challenges and begin ironing in more extreme places.

Picture this. You are climbing up a steep mountain face, clawing your breathless way to the top, when suddenly you take out your iron, ironing board and perhaps a shirt for work and beginning to iron. Now imagine yourself hurtling down some rapids in a canoe, or riding on top of a moving train, or doing a handspring from one trampoline to the other and in each case you are busy vigorously ironing some piece of laundry with your handy iron. These are just a sampling of some of the EI feats that have taken place worldwide.

According to the EI website at by 1998, ‘the mood was right for a more mainstream recognition of the sport and extreme ironing moved from an underground (almost mystical) organization and proclaimed itself as the ruling body of the now semi-official sport, known as the Extreme Ironing Bureau (EIB).’

In 2000, a team of enthusiastic ironers set up a sister office in Germany where a branch of EI that combines ironing with meditation began. Today EI has a following in Australia, South Africa, Japan, Chile, Croatia, and the US.

So just why do the founders think this sport has found such a universal popularity? “Most people find ironing quite boring and it gives it an added layer of excitement,” said Steam. “And for those extreme sports fans, it gives something like rock climbing, for example, an added level of difficulty. Everybody wins.”

In 2004 the two-week long US adventure began in Boston, continued in the Black Hills of South Dakota at Mount Rushmore and ended with a grand finale in Times Square on Memorial Day, May 31. "After our victory at the Extreme Ironing World Championships in 2002, I knew there was no other place for us to go but America,” said Steam. "We liken it to the last unconquered territory. If you haven't extreme ironed here, you haven't truly mastered the art. Who knows what's in store for the sport next; maybe one day Olympic recognition."

For now, however, EI enthusiasts continue to push the boundaries of the sport. Just this month, according to the EI website, a group of New Zealand ironists claimed a new world record in the emerging extreme sport, underwater ironing, for the most number of people ironing under water at the same time. And in May another madcap Extreme Ironist from Britain completed a world first - ironing the North Pole.

Where will it end?

Quick Rinse - News From Around The World

Ecolab Acquires Dober Chemical’S Textile Care Business

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Ecolab Inc. a leader in cleaning, sanitizing, food safety and infection prevention products and services announced it has purchased the commercial laundry division of Dober Chemical Corporation. The acquisition includes Dober’s laundry chemical and waste water treatment and Ultrax dispensing businesses as well as an exclusive partnership to market and provide key components of its Spindle monitoring software.

“Dober is respected throughout the industry for its innovative monitoring technology, product chemistry and commitment to service – qualities that complement our own strengths at Ecolab,” said Brian Henke, vice president and general manager, Ecolab Textile Care North America. “As we expand our North American commercial laundry business, innovation and service excellence will continue to be our top priority as we partner with our customers to deliver unsurpassed value to run their operations more efficiently, sustainably and cost effectively.”

“Ecolab and Dober share the same customercentric approach to service and innovative technology,” said John Dobrez, president Dober Chemical Corp. “This is an exciting development because it builds on the strengths of both companies to move the industry forward.”

Through this agreement, Spindle Technologies,a division of Dober, is forming a strategic alliance with Ecolab Textile Care in an exclusive licensing agreement for its ChemWatch Software technology and the OPTRAX Utility Module.

“There will be no movement of people as they currently all operate remotely,” said Henke. “The Dober leadership team is very skilled and respected in the industry. We plan to have them as part of the team moving forward. During the transition, both businesses will operate as usual and we do not expect there to be any changes in the service the customers are used to receiving.”