Extreme ironing locations include a mountainside of a difficult climb; a forest; in a canoe; while skiing or snowboarding; on top of large bronze statues; in the middle of a street; even when snorkeling, though this possibility defeats the purpose of ironing. The ironing itself has variations: either solo or in a group; ironing in existing formations or freestyle.
EI combines the excitement of an extreme sport with the satisfaction of freshly-ironed clothes. Though it seems a parody or hoax, many extreme ironers take their sport quite seriously. The Guardian said of extreme ironing that it carries on a tradition of British eccentricity.
The sport was started in Leicester, East Midlands, England by resident Phil Shaw. EI, however, is no longer localized to Great Britain. In June 1999, Shaw, who goes by the EI nickname "Steam", embarked on an international tour to promote the sport. The stops included the United States of America, Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and Southern Africa. An encounter with German tourists in New Zealand led to the founding of Extreme Ironing International, and the German Extreme Ironing Section or GEIS.
In September of 2002, the first World Championship for the sport took place in Valley, Germany, near Munich. Organized by the German Extreme Ironing Section, the 1st Extreme Ironing World Championships were considered a success, drawing international media attention. Competitors from Austria, Australia, Croatia, Chile, Germany, and the UK participated. The second annum of this competition is rumored to take place in England.
Since foundation, there has been the formation of an alleged breakaway group, Urban Housework. This sport has been considered unethical by most, as it alters the environment, disrupting the natural decay of plant matter to help re-fertilize the earth.
A documentary, appropriately entitled Extreme Ironing, was filmed for Britain's Channel 4.