Photographed at the Yotel in New York City by Angus Malcolm
The Warwick Rowers may be most recognizable with their clothes off, baring their buff bodies for calendars and film, but what they’re doing off-camera is just as deserving of all the attention they’re garnering. On a whirlwind U.S. press tour to promote their 2015 calendar and the release of their new film, Some Like it Hotter, four dreamboat rowers take a morning out of their nonstop media blitz to give Out a behind the scenes look at life on the road. When the spotlight is off and their clothes are on, Laurence Hulse, Matt Dabell, Thomas Robinson, and Oliver Greene may assume more casual poses, slumping in armchairs and lounging on the sofa of their hotel suite in sweats, but even though they’ve hardly slept or eaten in days, they are as passionate for their cause as we are for their tantalizing photos.
Half asleep on a rainy Tuesday morning at the Yotel hotel in Midtown New York, and not completely aware that I was showing up, Hulse, lying face down on the sofa, turns his head in my direction and graciously explains the origin and purpose of Sport Allies, their campaign aimed at combating homophobia in sports, charging forward with his important message even when he can’t keep his eyes fully open.
“The calendar started off as a fundraiser for the club, but it was the gay guys who took it from girlfriends and grandparents to a wider audience. By doing that, they were enabling us to take part in the sport, so we wanted to give something back," Hulse says. "LGBT people are often excluded from sport in a way because they don’t feel comfortable in the environment. The locker rooms are notoriously homophobic, and so is the sports field, so the idea was that we could help these guys take part in sport, like they had for us, by standing in alliance with them, and by starting our own campaign.
“What Sport Allies is seeking to do is combat homophobia in sport. It’s very much in its inception stage, but already we’ve commissioned some research into what the problem of homophobic bullying really is, because we can’t tackle a problem unless we fully understand it," he continues. "Some of the early findings have been that it’s really more about gender stereotypes and gender norms than bullying someone because they are gay. It’s more that they don’t conform to the gender-match of man/jock stereotype. For example, I could order a salad instead of a hamburger at school and my friends would call me gay, but there’s nothing actually homosexual about ordering salad. It’s just healthy. We want to challenge those gender norms.
As Hulse explains, their own boat club has amended its constitution to add rules surrounding diversity and inclusion, and enforcing those with verbal and written warnings, and then exclusion from the club. "We’re looking to roll that out to other universities in the UK," he says. "Other aims are things like training packs for sports coaches and adults involved in sports so they can really understand the problem themselves and have the confidence to act on any homophobic bullying they see going on in their domain.”
Ten percent of the revenues from their nude adventures goes straight to Sport Allies, and that’s no small sum. “This is a business that turned over half a million dollars last year,” reports Angus Malcolm, the rowers tireless producer. “This year, I think we could double that.”
Schedules are demanding for the competitive athletes-turned-model/activists. Still, Hulse estimates involvement at about 80% of the senior and novice men’s rowers. “We don’t make people do it, but a lot of people want to be involved. It’s fun, and it’s a good thing to be involved with. It’s nonstop and it’s a squeeze, but we all try to do it when we can. We work around people’s schedules to get as much done as we can.” Even in New York, the boys have had to forego their own interests to keep up with the schedule. “We wanted to go Ground Zero, Central Park, Times Square at night. We’d love to see the Statue of Liberty, too, but there hasn’t been time yet,” explains Robinson. How much time off have they had in the three days they’ve been in New York so far? “None. No downtime at all, really.”
But before you begin to feel bad for the beautiful boys you’ve spent so much time staring at, rest assured that this is paying off for them, too. According to Dabell, who served as men’s vice-captain last season, “it was our most successful year ever. Rowing is the kind of sport where money really does make a difference.”
Through the calendars and films, the Warwick Rowers earn the funding they need to train properly and compete effectively, and the LGBT community gains a powerful ally in an organization of mostly straight men standing up for LGBT athletes... by taking off their clothes. And neither side is being exploited in this provocative relationship, they guys insist. As Malcolm explains: “When a straight guy has a problem with a gay guy, I think it comes down to a perceived threat that there will be an unwanted advance or an unwanted sexual interest, and the way we address that is very directly by saying the interest is not unwanted for us. Obviously the rowers aren’t going to have sex with guys because they buy the calendar, but what we’re proving is that these boys don’t have a phobic response. Of course, as we all know, any guy in popular culture is subject to the gay interest, but very few of them acknowledge it in so direct a way.”
So feel good about ogling these photos shot exclusively for Out a little later in the day, after an hour or two of rest. You’re doing everyone a favor.
>>>MORE PHOTOS FROM THE YOTEL HOTEL PHOTO SHOOT
Through sales of their calendars, films, apparel, and limited edition prints, they founded their charity Sport Allies. Through Sport Allies, the sexy rowers reach out to young people challenged by bullying, homophobia, and transphobia. For more, visit WarwickRowers.org
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