There are plenty of sports clubs in the D.C. area catering to the gay crowd -- from softball to running to biking to ultimate Frisbee. But it's hard to imagine one as expensive as rowing. Who knew that a four-person rowing shell costs $17,000? The D.C. Strokes are well aware of the cost of rowing equipment and the need to raise money. And with the release of the 2008-2009 Men of Strokes calendar, this rowing team -- one of only three independent, dedicatedly GLBT rowing clubs in the world -- may have found a way to shake the money tree.
''It's incredibly expensive,'' club treasurer Dalin Holyoak admits. ''Most rowing clubs have endowments. It's a wealthy person's sport, in general. And we're not a wealthy person's club.''
Beyond equipment, the D.C. Strokes are also funding community outreach efforts, such as a recent event used to promote rowing for Whitman-Walker Clinic clients with HIV/AIDS.
As co-director of this first-time calendar project, along with the Strokes' Michael Zagoda, Holyoak also now knows how much of an effort goes into a project like this, which he says he hopes will raise $10,000 for the club.
''We've had to do everything,'' says Holyoak, a.k.a. Mr. January 2008. ''We've had all of our normal duties, plus getting this going. Michael had to convince a lot of people to do this, people who don't think of themselves as calendar-worthy. Or, if people think they're good-looking, they don't want to advertise it. It's definitely a modest bunch.''
Holyoak notes that ''part of it was self-selection,'' adding that altogether the D.C. Strokes counts roughly 200 members, men and women, straight and gay. ''We offered it up to everyone, including the women, but none of the women volunteered.... Our president is a woman, and she's excited. Women are definitely involved in selling it. A lot of people have contributed, as models, getting sponors.... Everybody in the club has really pitched in.''
Holyoak says he hopes any future versions of a D.C. Strokes calendar will include women, adding that he thinks some of the club's newer female members already seem enthusiastic about the prospect.
Meanwhile, the finished product will be unveiled Thursday, Oct. 11, with a schedule of fanfare going on well into the future. The initial rollout begins at William Waybourn's Longview Gallery at 1302 Ninth St. NW. The venue is no coincidence, considering Waybourn is easily as entwined in the calendar as Holyoak. It's Waybourn who took all the photos.
''The shoots started March 19,'' says Waybourn, who did the calendar shoots free of charge, and largely outdoors. ''I would say there were at least a dozen shoots, probably more. Each photo session would be at least a hundred shots. They were alternately freezing to death or burning up. The only day the weather was beautiful was the Stonewall Regatta [on June 2]. The guys worked really hard. It was a labor of love.''
Waybourn explains that the shoots took place at either the Anacostia or Potomac boat ramps, or at his indoor studio. VIDA Fitness also served as a venue, says Holyoak, when a rowing machine was needed for one shoot. The 18th & U Duplex Diner joined VIDA in sponsoring the calendar, helping the club come up with the money for the initial printing.
''There are a thousand calendars in the first printing,'' says Holyoak. ''It's a huge expense. It's almost $5,000 just to print, so we can't do more. We have to sell those first, but we hope to do a second printing.''
The calendar's design incorporating two years should help meet that goal says Tony Frye, who designed the Men of Strokes calendar, also free of charge.
''I always wanted to do a calendar. Once I said yes in July, they dumped more than a thousand photos on me,'' Frye laughs. ''It was initially just going to be a one year calendar, but when I saw all the shots, [I realized] there were enough for two years. That allows them to sell it though Capital Pride next year, which is a big hit for them.''
That is, if there are any left. After its Longview Gallery debut Oct. 11, the calendar heads down the street for another promotion party, this time at Be Bar. The next night, Friday, Oct. 12, it's over to Nellie's Sports Bar at 900 U St. NW. Saturday, Oct. 13, sees Men of Strokes events at Lambda Rising, 1625 Connecticut Ave. NW and the Duplex Diner, 2004 18th St. NW. And on Sunday, Oct. 14, the gang heads to JR.'s at 1519 17th St. NW. And that's just Washington. More autumn events are planned for New York and Chicago. Even the other side of the world is getting in on the act.
''The Argonauts sent an e-mail,'' says Holyoak, pointing to Melbourne, Australia's self-described queer rowing club. ''We're shipping off a huge box to Australia.''
For more information about the D.C. Strokes, including information about Learn to Row workshops offered to area groups, as well as the full schedule of Men of Strokes promotional events, visit the group online at www.dcstrokes.org.