We are PROUD to be an ally. Equality, Love, and Pride are the principles that JL is built on. Today and everyday, we come together to celebrate Pride Month. Inclusivity and unity are important in the rowing community, and we are fortunate to have passionate individuals who are part of, or advocates for, the LGBTQIA+ community. Today, we shine a spotlight on one of our Team JL Ambassadors, Willow Arts, who is a transgender athlete. Willow prefers sculling over sweep rowing, and her favorite boat to row in is a 1x. She likes to watch Netflix while she ergs, and what motivates her in the boat is when the coxswain is saying they are gaining on the other boat and when the coxswain is positive. When she isn't on the water, Willow enjoys competitive disc golfing. Keep reading to find out about her background in rowing, what motivates her, and what she would like to see moving forward for transgender athletes. 


JL Racing: How long have you been rowing? How did you get into the sport, and why did you choose rowing over any other sport? 

Willow Arts: I’ve been rowing for 15 years. I got into rowing because I had some friends in my scout troop and some classmates from high school I rode the bus with who would always talk about rowing.  I thought it was cool they got to row boats after school, it sounded like a unique sport that I was interested in trying. I also chose  rowing because I’m not good a ball sports and I don’t like contact sports.  I also enjoyed sailing at summer camp and I wanted a sport where I could be on the water.


JL: What is the most rewarding part of being a rower?

Willow: I really like racing and going to regattas and competing with my rowing friends.  I like the team atmosphere.  I like being physically fit and being able to exercise on the water and striving to improve.  I value all the friends I’ve made through the sport.


JL: Is there a moment that you can pick out from your years in the sport where you felt the most proud? Or is there an accomplishment you would like to share?

Willow: It was 2021 at Master’s Nationals in Oakridge, TN, I won a silver medal in the A1x women’s single. 


JL: What motivates you to train and race?

Willow: I want to push my self to be the best I can be.  I want to win races.


JL: What does Pride Month mean to you?

Willow: Every month is Pride Month for me. I strive to celebrate being proud of who I am every day.


JL: Would you like to share about your experience coming out to your club?

Willow: I came out to my club and USRowing in March 2018. I have had nothing but unconditional support from the rowing community and my club from the very beginning. I can not thank the ladies in my club enough for their unconditional support. It means the world to me. I competed in my first regatta as a female in July 2018, which was the most amazing experience in my life. Competing as a woman felt so natural to me. Like I had been living as a woman for my entire life. I have never looked back and since then things have only gotten better.


JL: Tell us about the two groups you created: Allies With Oars and Strokes in Transition.

Willow: Stokes in Transition is specifically for trans rowers, I wanted to create a safe place for trans rowers to have a community to discuss trans specific issues.

Allies With Oars is a group specifically in rowing to raise awareness and to support LGBTQ athletes.  


JL: What would you like to see in the future for transgender athletes in sport (or rowing specifically)? 

Willow: Continued support and acceptance of trans and gender not conforming athletes in rowing


JL: What do you think is the most important attribute for success in rowing?

Willow: Hard work and pushing your limits.


JL: How does JL fit into your rowing life? Why JL as opposed to another brand?

Willow: The first uni I ever wore was a JL uni, it fit well, it was comfortable and durable, I still have it.  I chose JL to help me design the athletic wear for the groups I created because I knew customer service would be friendly, helpful and creative. JL would help me design a product to be proud to wear.

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.