The Warwick Rowers, who you might know as the Naked Rowers, have “proudly getting naked for club and community since 2009” and are known around the world for their nude calendars that raise awareness for LGBT causes. These boys have been fighting homophobia and breaking hearts for 6 years across the pond in the UK.
The only thing that’s more beautiful than their chiseled bodies is their dedication to eradicating homophobia in sports. Yes, these boys are more than perfectly toned athletes – they are activists, students, and some of the cheekiest boys in the UK.
I was lucky enough to chat with the some of the lads about their calendars, the team, and their dating lives. Keep your eyes out, boys and girls… These lads will be in a neighborhood near you later this year. (Follow them on Twitter for updates on their upcoming tour!)
TC: You’re known around the world as the “Naked Rowers” and for having raised over $50,000 for LGBT charities. How does it feel to be an international sensation?
Laurence Hulse: There’s one thing I never thought we’d be called! Well, to be honest it’s kind of fun and a bit surreal. At the end of the day, we’re just a bunch of young British boys studying at University, so seeing oneself on E! News and Good Morning America took a couple of glances to accept. It’s certainly made my twitter way more entertaining too!
Matt Dabell: It’s slightly surreal!
TC: Did you ever think your calendar would be such a success?
LH: I had a sneaking suspicion that abs, bums, and biceps would go further than most people expected, but it even surprised me. I remember getting a Snapchat from my youngest sister, Tilly, with the simple caption “WTF.” She had filmed E! News that day which switched from coverage of the Royal Baby to my mates and I larking around naked and then onto a story about Kim and Kanye. That was pretty cool.
TC: How did you come to the idea to do a calendar shoot?
LH: The Boat club was in a lot of debt at the time, so it made sense to raise funds for repairs and new kit and charity at the same time!
MD: It’s been going for a few years before I joined the club. As soon as I found out about it I was definitely happy to get involved!
TC: Why did the team decide to target homophobia?
LH: The first 3 calendars received so much support from the gay community, we felt it only right to try and give something back, so we offered to raise money for the Ben Cohen Foundation with our 2013 campaign. This move triggered supporters to write in, telling us about their experiences of homophobia and how meaningful our stance was. So the natural response this year was to go out and start our own campaign, Sport Allies, so that we could give not just money, but our time as well!
TC: Was it at all awkward to shoot the calendar?
LH: I can’t speak for all the boys, but I had no qualms at all. In fact, I think I was the first one to go full monty. From what I experienced, I don’t think anyone else was awkward either. We’re all close friends and we were at our Boathouse on the river in the middle of the countryside, so it was easy to relax.
MD: The guys who’ve done it before always lead the way at first. Then after a while you sort of forget you’re even naked.
TC: Can you tell us an embarrassing moment from the calendar shoot?
LH: I’m pretty sure I swallowed duck/swan excreta when I tackled Paddy into the river…
MD: We were doing a shot that involved foamy shampoo. At the end, Laurie squirted some on my ass, which I didn’t realize and was walking round with for a while. I think you can see it in the film.
TC: Speaking of the film, you give the audience a back-stage pass to see everything (and I mean everything!) from the shoot. It’s called The Naked Rowers: Bigger, Longer, & Uncut. Who on the team are these adjectives referring to?
LH: Haha! I couldn’t possibly comment!! I think we were going for a spoof of the title of a South Park film, really!
MD: That’s something people must judge for themselves by watching the film. However, I would say no one is really out of place…
TC: Who decided to use a puppy in this year’s shoot? Had you guys not broken enough hearts already by this point?
LH: Oh that was our Producer and Photographer, Angus Malcom’s idea. Oscar the shih-tzu seemed to love it, so I don’t think we broke his heart!
MD: Funny thing was the puppy’s female owner got to watch the whole shoot…
TC: Do any of members of the team identify as gay or bisexual?
LH: Yes, one of the lads is gay and he’s been in a few calendars now – but that’s all I’m giving away! Similarly, in the women’s squad, not all the girls are straight.
TC: What’s your favorite month from the calendar?
LH: I love all the photos to be honest and Angus deserves a lot of credit for his photography skills. I think the back cover is great because of its anonymity and the symbolism that I’ve interpreted from it. There’s four of us, arm in arm, trudging through a field walking off into the unknown. Which for me embodies so many aspects of this project; the Sport Allies campaign, Our own journeys within it, the 5 year development of the calendar, our upcoming tour to America, Everything really.
MD: I probably like the cover the most, although if I had to pick a month it would probably be September – it’s a great action shot!
TC: Your Instagram account was taken down recently. Why do you think that was and how do you suggest we get our daily fix?
LH: Yes, that really annoyed me because we were starting to get quite popular! For now, you’ll have to stick with our Twitter @naked_rowers where we post pictures as well as tweets.
TC: Have any professors admitted to being fans of your work?
LH: Some of my classmates are pretty sure one of my seminar tutors recognized me once the calendar went viral in the winter.
TC: Rumor has it that you boys will be doing a US tour in the upcoming future. Is this true?
LH: YES! We can’t wait. Most of us haven’t seen much of America before. We’re really excited to be flying out to America in September/October time. We’re coming to raise awareness about Sport Allies and raise funds by launching the next calendar out there!
We’ll be doing calendar signings, live events, club nights and hopefully lots of interviews. We’re also going to do a naked shoot whilst we’re over in America! We’re still deciding where to visit and it will come down to where there is the most demand at the end of it. Cities currently in the mix are New York, Miami, Dallas, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. We’re currently at the planning stage, so we’re looking for sponsors and picking where to go and looking into organizing media interviews. It’s already looking to be a trip of a lifetime!
TC: Are any of you lads single?
LH: I’m pretty sure most of us are single! I’ll try and keep it that way till we get to America!
In honor of marriage equality and the first same-sex marriage in the UK this past weekend, the boys across the pond want to celebrate with you all! As an exclusive for Thought Catalog readers, you can receive 20% off any order on their site through the end of April. Just use the code THOUGHT20 and giggle to yourself as you wait for the best calendar, greeting cards, and other memorabilia to arrive!