“It felt surprisingly natural being naked”: An interview with the Warwick Rowers

It’s getting to that time of year when the calendars hit the shelves and the Warwick Rowers are back with their 2017 calendar and film. We caught up with Tom, one of our favourite rowers from last year and new rower Jacob.


The Gaze: Jacob, how did you all get involved with the rowing club?

Jacob: I had wanted to start a sport at University in order to improve my overall health and fitness and had already thought about rowing as a possibility. During the freshers fair I was approached a few times by the club and given how friendly they all were I decided I’d give it a go. Although the first few weeks were tough I very quickly became hooked.


From the teasers we’ve seen on Snapchat and Twitter there are a few familiar faces returning from the 2016 calendar and film. Who can we expect and was it easy to persuade them back for 2017?

Tom: I think you should all be very excited about the 2017 calendar! It has the largest cast of any calendar we’ve made to date and there are some huge group shots! We did shoots in country houses in England, at the boathouse and also took more boys than ever to Spain to do a shoot! Almost everyone who took part in the 2016 Calendar has returned along with many new faces so it should be bigger and better than ever!


Tom (second right)
Tom (second right) with Lucas, Tristan, Alex, Will and Cian in the 2016 calendar.


Were you aware of the calendars before you joined the club? Was it something that you knew you wanted to be involved in or did they have to convince you to take part?

Jacob: I had already heard about the Calendar from a friend before I started uni. However I wasn’t initially sure whether I’d be a part of it or not. After hearing about how much of an impact the calendar had, I felt motivated to take part. Having had such a fantastic experience in sport myself, I really wanted to promote inclusion.


You must all be campus celebrities now. Do you get recognised once you have your clothes back on and what sort of feedback do you get? Is it all positive or have you suffered any abuse?

Tom: It is slightly surreal at times on campus when you get recognised! I’ve probably been asked by people to have a photo with me maybe half a dozen times now! People do recognise us with our clothes on but everyone always makes the same joke ‘I didn’t recognise you with our clothes on’. We can’t complain though as it’s just phenomenal to think that the worldwide reach this project now has and that we are just ordinary students! Almost all the feedback we get is positive, although other University boat clubs do like to tease us for always being naked. It’s all in good spirit though!


Warwick Rowers


What was it like on the first day of the shoot? Did undressing in front of the camera come easy to everyone or were there some first night nerves?

Jacob: Naturally I felt a little nervous before the first shoot. However as soon as the onesies came off I realised that all my worries had been for nothing. It felt surprisingly natural being naked, and given that we were all naked, no-one felt awkward at all. Having spent the past year training with each other every day, we’d all formed very close bonds and so we were all very comfortable around each other.


Tom, did you have any body confidence issues prior to featuring in the calendar? What were these and have you found that been involved has helped overcome these?

Tom: Personally I have never really had any body confidence issues and although I can’t speak for the other guys, there were none that I am aware of. Having said that I am now much more comfortable getting naked (my mum would say perhaps a little too comfortable as I stroll around the house naked a lot more now!). Doing a calendar such as this makes you realise that everyone is different and there’s no specific shape or size penis that is normal so you really don’t need to worry whether yours is normal. The truth is no ones penis is normal as there is no norm. I think being comfortable naked around my friends has given me a boost in confidence and although I never thought I had body confidence issues before, I definitely don’t now!


Warwick Rowers


Have you told your friends and family that you’re involved in the calendar and what has their reaction been like?

Jacob: My parents are both very supportive of me being in the calendar, and I think my mum is a bit of a fan. Her friends also seem to be looking forward to seeing it. They are very much behind the Sport Allies values and think that the project is fantastic.

I’ve told a few friends about the calendar as well. They all think it is great, and seem to find it hilarious that my bum is readily available to see on the internet.


You continue to raise money with the calendar and films for your charity Sport Allies. Can you explain what projects Sport Allies has been involved in and how the money raised has helped to tackle homophobia and promote inclusion in sport?

Tom: We take Sport Allies extremely seriously.  It is not just an important issue to us as a gay/straight alliance, but the legacy that the calendar project will leave behind.  It’s very easy to make a lot of noise with a fundraising gimmick, but it takes more time and effort to set up a sustainable organisation.  But that is exactly what Sport Allies has become.  It meant investing time and effort in establishing an evidence base to ensure that our work is based in reality, undertaking an analysis of the existing organisations to avoid duplication of effort, and recruiting an effective board to lead the organisation forward.  We have done all of that, and the proof of the pudding is that the Charity Commission has made us a registered charity.

Our twin core objectives are to represent the voice of our supporters in national and international conversations about greater LGBT inclusion in sport, and to talk directly to young people through mass media – and we’re already delivering real work and real outcomes.  Our written evidence to the House of Commons Select Committee investigating homophobia in sport was very positively received and can be downloaded from the Sport Allies website.

We will also shortly be publishing a major report, the first piece of research commissioned and guided by Sport Allies in accordance with its strategic objectives.  We’re very excited about it, and about our plans for our first media content, which we aim to make available free of charge to young people worldwide.

The 2017 calendar and film along with numerous other items can be bought from the Warwick Rowers Shop.