Streak to Win

In the early 1970′s, on the ivy-covered campus of Princeton University, one first spied sophomores running naked through the school’s hallowed halls and prancing upon its manicured quads. Though its conception is shrouded in mystery, the Nude Olympics was a cult staple of the University for nearly three decades, beloved by students and predictably hated on by faculty and alumni. In 1999, after threats of year-long suspensions graduated from the category of “idle” to “very real,” the bacchanalian games came to an abrupt end.

In its heyday, Princeton’s streak fest wrangled hundreds of student bodies, enticed them to shuffle off their clothed coils despite frigid temperatures, and created the greatest spectacle of naked flesh outside of a Spencer Tunick photograph.

Still, the Naked Olympics ain’t got nothin’ on the Hamilton College Varsity Streaking Team.

Unlike Princeton, the beginnings of Hamilton’s tradition are far easier to decipher. Established in 2002, the Varsity Streaking Team competed in its first match during Accepted Students Weekend.

Prospective Hamiltons toured the campus to decide if this particular New England Small College Athletic Conference school was the right choice. Current Hamilton students wanted to make sure nothing was left to the imagination. The game began at 12:30 PM, when college coeds scampered across campus sans clothes. It ended mere minutes later in decided victory and a new, NCAA-unsanctioned sports team was established. The Hamilton Varsity Streaking Team has gone undefeated ever since.

Streak to Win is the story of the team’s 2004 – 2005 season. Though it has all the trappings of an Old School spin-off or Jason Segel movie (gratuitous full frontal male nudity) and a Christopher Guest mockumentary (absurd premise coupled with indulgent interviews and occasional shaky camerawork), it is neither. The web series might be a bit tongue-in-cheek and its premise appear fictitious, but it documents the actual events of a group of college kids who take taking off their clothes for sport at least semi-seriously. And it’s fantastic.

I recently caught up with Hamilton alum and Streak to Win Executive Producer Peter Holzaepfel to talk about the art of streaking, how the series came to be, and what happens if you get really excited while running around naked.

Tilzy.TV: Who’s behind Streak to Win?

Peter Holzaepfel: There are three of us. We’re all Hamilton College graduates and founding members of The Hamilton College Varsity Streaking Team.

Streak to WinSean Tice is the director/editor and a a web and social community producer. His work includes the design and development of CBS video destination sites MobLogic, Wallstrip, Heckle U, and Novel Adventures. Adam Bedient is a photographer and filmmaker living in Brooklyn. He spent the last year working with Gravid Films and Off Ramp Films on the upcoming underground racing documentary 32 Hours 7 Minutes. And I’m a corporate engagement manager with The Climate Group, an international non-profit organization that works with businesses and governments on energy/climate issues.

Tilzy.TV: What’s the genesis of the show? What came first? The crazy idea for a varsity streaking team or a web series?

Holzaepfel: The Varsity Streaking Team came first for sure. The team was founded in 2002. At the time I was a sophomore at Hamilton, Adam a Junior, and Sean a Freshman. The true founder, who will remain nameless and referred to only as “The Founder” (think Kaiser Sose), was a senior. The team really grew out of the question of how do we make Hamilton different than all the other liberal arts schools. It’s not going to be about how much better our parties are, how much more beer we drink, but maybe about how we have a varsity streaking team. That’s something Bates, Williams, Amherst, Wesleyan, Bowdoin, and Middlebury don’t have.

Our accepted students weekend was approaching when all of the accepted high school students come to campus to decide if they want to attend Hamilton or to one of the other liberal arts schools they were accepted to.The Founder made a call for current students to join the Varsity Streaking Team on a noon thirty run across campus. From there the beast was born and, after countless home games, matured like all other varsity sports, into a traveling team. We went to Colgate first and then planned the ultimate season tour for the fall of 2004. We streaked all of the schools in our athletic conference, the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC).

It was a lot about school pride, friendship, and defining a new model for college fun that wasn’t about trying to relive the frat and sorority animal house legacies of our parents’ college experiences.

Essentially at the end of the fall of 2004 tour, we had 20 hours of raw footage that we decided we should do something with. Streak to Win is what has evolved out of that footage.

Tilzy.TV: So there’s not a storied streaking history at Hamilton like there is at Princeton?

Holzaepfel: Nope…just started in 2002…but certainly takes cues from streaking history in the college realm.

Tilzy.TV: You guys would show up on campuses, unannounced, with cameras but sans clothes and just run around? Is that how it worked?

Holzaepfel: The streaks were very well planned and executed, like a bank robbery; only we were robbing schools of their coolness by running around their campus, waving Hamilton flags, yelling “You are being streaked by the Hamilton College Varsity Streaking Team” encouraging students to “Join us!” and then disappearing. We would always look for the most crowded and obtrusive runs through the biggest lectures, dining halls, campus quads, sports games, etc.

Streak to WinTilzy.TV: Is Streak to Win funded? How come it’s taken 2.5 years to get it out on the web?

Holzaepfel: Noah Siegel, a young NYC entrepreneur and friend helped to fund the series. Noah loved the idea and wanted to see it taken to its full potential. And like any significant production, these things take time. It has also been a side project for the three of us as we all have other full time jobs

Tilzy.TV: I just want to get this straight. It’s a documentary, right? Not a mockumentary?

Holzaepfel: At its heart it is a documentary. It’s a documentary of a group of people who live to mock the status quo. We have added some post college interviews, but people are really being themselves and it’s the same humor that drove the entire group of us to do this in the first place. Streak to Win is better than countless mockumentaries out there because it melds both the documentary and mockumentary genres. It’s all unscripted, comedic, and real.

Tilzy.TV: Was it hard to find people to run around naked? Is there an art? Does it require alcohol?

Holzaepfel: It wasn’t too hard at all to find people to join us. It began as mostly a group of our friends, but we quickly picked up team mates from all circles.

Sobriety is the key to victory, not to say that we don’t party, but our streaks were generally in the middle of the day (noon thirty preferably) and always sober. An art certainly evolved out of varsity streaking. Like any championship/professional/varsity team, we were so good at what we were doing it was beautiful to watch.

Streak to WinTilzy.TV: What’s the guy/girl ratio on the team?

Holzaepfel: It was about 12 guys and 8 girls (the starting lineup/travel team) some streaks would grow to thirty or so, mostly for home games. In most cases the ratio stayed about the same, a few more guys than girls, but very co-ed.

Tilzy.TV: What happens if you…ummmmm…get excited while streaking?

Holzaepfel: The idea that anything like that would happen is truly a question asked only by someone who has never streaked. As soon as you take your clothes off and you’re innately vulnerable to the world, you are thinking of only one thing, and it’s not the naked girl standing next to you. You get sort of tunnel vision and do whatever is necessary to perform the streak and get your clothes back on.

Be sure to check out the series at StreakToWin.com.