Warwick Rowers interview – Part One: “It’s safe to say there was nowhere to hide when your penis is on somebody else’s neck!”

There are not many places left in the world that haven’t seen or heard of the Naked Rowers. Their calendar and film grows in popularity and notoriety each year even featuring major news channels and magazines in the US when they toured there late last year. We caught up with the guys to find out what and who has changed for 2016 and what it’s like seeing yourself naked all over the internet. Here’s the first part of our in depth interview with one of the stars of the 2015 calendar, Tristan; Lucas, Alex, Will and Tom, all featuring in their first calendar; and the man we all envy, photographer, Angus Malcolm.


The Gaze: Congratulations, 2015 has been a huge year for the calendar having gained worldwide notoriety. You must be over the moon?

Angus: It has been massively exciting to be involved in this project from the start and see it grow so much. Of course, it also means there is more and more pressure every year, and I do spend a lot of time between February and June panicking about how to keep things fresh. It’s very important to all of us to make sure we earn the incredible support we get for our new calendar every year.  But I think we’re all pretty psyched with what we’ve done this year, so I hope our supporters will be, too.


We’ve lost a few of the stars from previous calendars this year including Laurie and Matt. Was it hard to find new boys who were able to fill the large void they have left?

Angus: Every year I worry when such and such a rower is no longer involved, because it happens every year, but I have no concerns this time. The guys for WR16 have been amazing! I had long conversations this year with the club about the project and about Sport Allies, and I think the boys who have taken part this year have been better informed and more committed than ever. As a result, the shoots were the most enjoyable we’ve ever done. And I think that shines through in what we have been able to produce. And I’m delighted to say that Matt is still very much involved behind the camera – he looks after all aspects of the website and runs our support service, too. You’ll also be able to see some of last year’s favourites in the film of our US tour to Los Angeles, New York and Miami.


Lucas, Tristan, Alex, Will, Tom, Cian (not interviewed)
L-R: Lucas, Tristan, Alex, Will, Tom, Cian (not interviewed)


Let’s find out a bit more about the new boys. How did you get involved with the rowing club?

Tom: I became involved with the club after chatting to some of the current rowing squad on Arrivals Weekend during my freshers week. There was a four week selection process and after that I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Novice Men’s Squad. Since then I’ve loved every minute of it and have been elected Novice Men’s Captain for the next year so I can encourage more people to take up rowing!


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

Lucas: I knew about the naked calendar before I joined, that is true. But because of where I’m from, in France, it is not as big as it is in the UK or the US so I knew very little about it. I just thought it was some classic naked calendar that a lot of sport clubs do, but really didn’t know how special this one was. Basically it looks very appealing and scary at the same time to take part in this project. Very appealing because the cause is great, the experience is amazing but scary because stripping off in front of a camera around a lot of your mates is not something I had done before. So I guess I can say that along the year I got more and more keen in taking part in it, but that wasn’t originally the case.

Will: The calendar was something I decided quite late on to be a part of. I took a little convincing but the cast was a bunch of good guys so I knew it was going to be a good laugh so I thought why not!


Were you all comfortable when it came to stripping off?

Lucas: Personally, stripping off in front of everybody and the cameras is kind of scary at first. I mean, I had never done a shoot even clothed before so a shoot naked was a big step for me to take. I really didn’t know how comfortable I was going to be in my own body around so many people that would be naked too. It turned out it made me realise that there is really nothing bad about nudity, we’re all different and once you accept that, it’s actually awesome! I think it didn’t take a lot of time for us all to feel comfortable naked around each other.

Tom: I was really comfortable stripping off as we had all spent so much time training and socialising with the other guys that there wasn’t anything to hide really so I wasn’t that nervous. It was slightly strange at first to be casually walking around naked but we all got used to it really quickly.


Tristan, this is your second calendar. Was it easier this time around when it came to removing the onesie?

Tristan: I definitely knew what to expect this time. I knew going into it how relaxed the whole experience was, and was aware that the newbies may have been slightly nervous, so I tried my best to make everyone feel comfortable.


What did your friends and family say to you when you told them you were participating in the calendar?

Lucas: My dad was completely fine as it’s for charity and he thought it was a great project to be a part of. My mum was a bit more worried at first and she said to me: “You know, you always have nasty people out there who will want to hurt you for no reason or for taking part in a successful project”. I think she is right in some ways but I hope that people appreciate the fact that we’re doing this for a great cause and not for ourselves, and won’t try to damage our image. I know stripping off will do a lot of good both for the LGBT+ community and my club and that’s what is important to me.

I didn’t talk to many friends about doing the calendar, only the ones that were part of the rowing club to really get a feel of what it is like to be part of the calendar. But the rest of them quickly realised I was stripping off for charity after we launched our Crowdfunder!


Warwick Rowers


Were you all used to stripping off around each other or was the calendar shoot the first time you had seen each other naked?

Tom: We train a lot together which means we are pretty used to being around each other and we often use the changing rooms together so I had stripped off with some of the guys but the calendar was I think the first time we had all done it the same time. It’s definitely the first time I stripped off in an actual Rowing boat before!

Will: You’d occasionally see each other naked in the changing rooms or the showers but nothing on the scale of the calendar shoot. It’s safe to say there was nowhere to hide when your penis is on somebody else’s neck!


Angus, this year you have produced a limited edition coffee table book. Can you describe what people can expect if they order one of the 1000 books produced.

Angus: The fundamental message of the Warwick Rowers for many years has been that we need to confront homophobia in sport. We have been making that point through male nudity, which still occupies an uncertain space in our culture – is it ok, and does that depend on who it is for? The answers to those questions are not always clear, and I believe this is often deliberate; male nudity is presented as being “something cheeky for the ladies” with a very quiet nod to gay men. The difference with our project is that, while the calendar sells to both men and women, the rowers have always been unequivocal, outpsoken and specific in inviting gay men to enjoy looking at their bodies, to make the point that none of us needs fear anyone else’s sexuality. The book allows the rowers to make this point without the boundaries and limitations that apply to naked calendars. I was concerned that frontal nudity in still images might change the tone of the project, but I don’t think it does. It merely underlines and reaffirms in a pure and unadulterated way what the project has always been about – a beautiful celebration of a voluntary act by a team of brave university athletes.


Are you able to give us an exclusive and reveal the name of this year’s film?
Angus: I would if I could! But I have no idea yet. What I will say is that our message this year is that men need to be more emotionally and physically comfortable with each other. I’ll be thinking of titles along those lines…