row2k Features
Wisconsin Lightweight Falcon Jaacks
March 20, 2024
Erik Dresser,

Wisconsin Lightweight Falcon Jaacks

This week row2k continues our 2024 spring collegiate racing preview with an interview with Wisconsin senior lightweight Falcon Jaacks. We chat with Jaacks on passion for creating art, interning for 776BC, and more.

row2k - How did you get your start in rowing?

Falcon Jaacks - I am from Brownsville, Vermont, and attended Hanover High School in Hanover, NH, where I joined as a freshman novice in March of 2017. Prior to rowing, I did club rock climbing but had never participated in any organized sports. Taking my first strokes in the tanks in the basement of the Dartmouth College athletic center, I remember being both nervous but determined just to follow the instructions and learn the sport. That spring, I was in the first novice boat and returned the following spring to make the varsity team. However, this ended abruptly when the night before our first race of the season, after making 7 seat of the 1V, I broke my collarbone at a team dinner during an outdoor yard game in wet grass.

The subsequent moments in the ER, realizing I was done for the season, were a pivotal time in acknowledging just how much rowing means to me. Upon my recovery, I joined the Upper Valley Rowing Foundation fall crew program and did a winter tanks session coached by community rowers Rowan Carroll and Peter Kermond, who both continue to be mentors along my rowing journey. In the spring of my junior year, I raced in the varsity boat for Hanover in the NEIRAs league. Unfortunately, my senior season was canceled due to covid. At this point, I knew I wasn’t done rowing and decided to pursue it in college. Having rowing as a factor aided in narrowing down schools and boy am I glad I listened to the inclination to pursue it at the next level.

row2k - How did you decide to attend Wisconsin?

Falcon Jaacks - As I began my college recruiting process, I looked at a variety of schools across levels. My high school coaches, Fred Cressman and Julie Stevenson, encouraged me to consider lightweight. I did a camp at Stanford in August 2019 before beginning my senior year. The camp solidified my idea of continuing in college as it exposed me to a whole new group of rowers and what this sport could mean. Taking officials at URI and Wesleyan provided helpful insight into the life of college rowers.

I proceeded to apply Early Action to Wisconsin and attended an admitted students day in February of 2020, where I introduced myself to the coaches and toured the facilities. By the end of my visit, I was sold. Somewhere between the on-campus boathouse next to my future dorm, the picturesque sunrise over the capitol while walking on the frozen lake in 10-degree weather, and the resources of the Design Studies department, I could see myself thriving here. Growing up on the East Coast, I hardly knew where Wisconsin was, but now Madison is a place I will hold dear in my heart for the rest of my life.

row2k - You are a fairly dedicated artist, when did you take that up and what kind of art do you create?

Falcon Jaacks - I grew up with parents who both hold degrees from Rhode Island School of Design and raised me with a very artistic childhood. I always had a project going, spending my time knitting, sewing, and doing various crafts in our art studio. In middle school, I went to the Upper Valley Waldorf School, which has an educational philosophy around hands-on learning and the incorporation of drawing and art as a vehicle for strengthening learning rather than as a bonus subject. In high school, Hanover had phenomenal resources in their art department that allowed me to learn printmaking, pottery, jewelry, painting, and drawing. At home, I made countless dresses, bags, and knitted items. For me, the process of creating art and applying new techniques has always been what inspires me to create.

In college, I decided to major in textile design since it feels like a practical and skill based creative outlet. I have taken classes in weaving, dying fabric, screen printing large patterns, and digital design. I had the opportunity to do a junior showcase and display my textile work last spring, which included a piece hand-woven on a digital TC2 loom. For this project I drew inspiration from my passion for rowing and wove an abstracted morning sunrise landscape. I incorporated the crisp splashes of the oar with geometric patterning and color exploration. To complete my display, I installed a sculling oar in the gallery to hang my hand-woven dish towels on, which was pretty fun! You can view it here.

Jaacks racing in 776BC gear at Summer Nationals
Jaacks racing in 776BC gear at Summer Nationals

row2k - You spent a summer in Australia working with 776BC. How did that come about and what was your role with the company?

Falcon Jaacks - I have dual citizenship between Australia and the US, which enabled me to work in Melbourne. 776BC is a company that perfectly intersects my textile/apparel interests, rowing, and a country I have a connection to.

I had the opportunity to do an internship for school credit through my major and reached out to see if 776BC would be willing to have me as an intern. They agreed and welcomed me to their team. It was an unbeatable learning opportunity that I am immensely grateful for. I had a fabulous time learning skills in product quality and development, marketing and operations tasks, and gaining a deeper understanding of the motion system, among many things! I continue to work on a contract basis to set up US club shop pages and products. This fall, I designed a unisuit for my team incorporating the motion lines, iconic imagery of Lake Mendota where we row, and our team aesthetic. It was rewarding to combine my experience of design and see the process from the inside as I facilitated the team order.

row2k - What do you like most about the sport of rowing?

Falcon Jaacks - Rowing has allowed me to find confidence in myself, community around a lifelong interest, and a shared pursuit for honing the balance of technique, fitness, and mental strength. I am continually impressed with the genuine connections formed around the love of this sport across many locations and generations. I have built strong connections at Wisconsin with my current and past teammates and roommates. I have found role models in teammates and in working with Kristin Hedstrom on Zoom before beginning college. Each summer I return to the vibrant masters rowing community in Hanover, NH, including Linda Muri and Peter Kermond who hired me to work for Burnham Boat Slings in summer of 2022.

Even halfway across the world in Melbourne, the U23 athletes at Mercantile Rowing Club welcomed me with open arms. I am grateful for the kind of people that rowing attracts, as well as their willingness to aid me in my life journey. I would like to do the same for others in this sport and beyond. As far as my passion for the actual act of rowing, I enjoy the innate duality between individually striving for perfection and the rhythmic flow of boat cohesion. It is such a unique balance to simultaneously need to be the best you can individually and also meld that with the boat and team on every given day as you push for success together.

row2k - You are a captain as a senior this year, how do you view that role within your team?

Jaacks (left) with Wisco four at 2022 Dad Vails
Jaacks (left) with Wisco four at 2022 Dad Vails

Falcon Jaacks - Being voted team captain along with my co-captain, Victoria Moda, was a full-circle moment for me. As a freshman I looked up to the senior class immensely and all of the women who have led this team and formed my understanding of what legacy I want to leave. In particular, it has been satisfying to work with my coaches, Hodge Habibovic, Vicky Opitz, and Grace D’Souza, as our team continues to grow and thrive. Grace was a senior during my freshman year and has been a role model of the type of athlete I aspire to be. For me, being captain is a continuation of leading by example with the interest of the team at the forefront. I continue to learn and grow as I put my best effort forward each day and enjoy the process. Being in a leadership position has pushed me to adapt my perspective while still pursuing my goals. Reflecting on how much the sport of rowing has brought to my life, I would like to continue to spread the value of sport and contribute to the communal strive for greatness.

row2k - What are you studying at Wisconsin and do you have any plans for after graduation?

Falcon Jaacks - I am majoring in Textiles & Fashion Design with a minor in Computer Science. I have also taken a handful of Management and Entrepreneurship classes to balance my interests. I would like to work in the field of smart apparel, advancing the use of technology in combination with garments to enhance the human experience. This may take the form of performance athletic apparel or multifunctional garments that contribute to sustainable fashion. I am openly seeking opportunities and excited to see what the future holds. In terms of post-grad rowing, I plan to compete at trials for the U23 Worlds this summer. I know that the rowing community will always be a part of my life and I am excited to see where the sport leads me next as I continue to foster connections and embrace opportunities.

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03/20/2024  2:44:40 PM
What a great interview! You've have the BEST collection of rowing mentors in Hanover, and now in Wisconsin. And it has all 'paid' off. Congratulations--hope you have a very fast Spring!

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