SPORT - INTERVIEW
Monday, September 24, 2018
Alex Megos masters the difficult start of Coupe de Grace (9a) at Valle Bavona in Tessin - © Thomas Ballenberger / Red Bull Content Pool
SPORT - INTERVIEW
by Melisa Kaya
Alexander Megos has been climbing since he was 6 years old. His climbing career that started with his father's pioneering, reached to the top level with the coaching of Patrick Matros and Ludwig "Dicki" Korb. He became the first climber to ever on-sight a route graded 9a with his ascent of Estado Critico in Siurana, Spain in 2013. On the 9th of May 2018, Alexander completed his first 9b+ (5.15c) route with the first ascent of "Perfecto Mundo". He is collaborating with Patagonia, Red Bull, Gore-Tex, Tenaya, DMM, Sterling Ropes, Entreprises, Cafe Kraft, Friction Labs, and Faza Brushes, so he is very experienced in sponsorship processes. I had the opportunity to communicate with Alexander Megos on this busy calendar, and I talked to him to learn about his career, and I asked him about his opinions and experiences about the importance of individual sponsorship in rock climbing.
Alex, you have been climbing since you were 6 years old. How did you discover the climbing passion that takes you to the rocks? Who or what encouraged you?
I discovered climbing through my father. He started climbing when he was at university and passed this passion on to the whole family. After I got more and more into climbing there were a few people who encouraged me to push myself and always support me on my way towards where I know. I want to name 3 very important people here. My two trainers Patrick Matros and Dicki Korb and my good friend Felix Neumärker.
Alex Megos climbs Speed Integrale (9a) at Voralpsee in Switzerland - © Thomas Ballenberger / Red Bull Content Pool
When did you first feel that climbing was no longer a hobby for you? What was changed in your life when you decide to be a professional rock climber?
There was one very specific event that suddenly made me realise that I could make climbing into a profession. Doing the world's first 9a onsight made me famous overnight and allowed me to become a professional climber. Or let's say it made me realise that I could make a living out of climbing.
Alexander Megos is seen during the 2018 IFSC Climbing World Championships Lead Final in Innsbruck, Austria - © Erich Spiess/ASP / Red Bull Content Pool
Could you tell us about your achievements in your competition climbing career? Why did you leave your successful competition career behind and choose outdoor rock climbing?
After finishing school I wanted to travel the world to go climbing and I didn't want to be tied to competitions which meant being at a certain time at a certain place. So I decided to stop competing in order to go rock climbing.
Up to that point, my competition career was only successful in the youth competitions. I wasn't successful in adult competitions till very recently.
Alex Megos seen in the Franken Jurassic, Germany - © Frank Kretschmann / Red Bull Content Pool
What was your biggest rock climbing achievements in your career?
I think my biggest rock climbing achievement was probably the first ascent of “Perfecto Mundo” in Margalef, Spain beginning of this year. It's been the route I've spent the most time on it's the hardest route I have climbed to date.
You were the first climber to ever on-sight a route graded 9a (5.14d). How does it feel to be the first climber that achieve this success?
How does it feel to be the first person in Mt. Everest? The answer to those questions is probably: it feels great. It's hard to describe the feeling other than saying that it's incredible and probably not comprehensive for anyone who hasn't had a similar experience.
Alex Megos climbs 'Swanky Sit' (V9) on the Buttermilk boulders near Bishop, CA, USA - © Ken Etzel / Red Bull Content Pool
Why do you always wear yellow shirts?
Because I like yellow.
As a climber who has seen many places in the world, where is your favorite place to climb? What is your favorite route?
There never is one favourite place or one favourite route. That's the great thing about climbing! There is so much variety in this sport and lifestyle which makes it so beautiful and unique. That's why climbing is so special.
Alex Megos makes the third ascent of 'Lucid Dreaming' (V15) at the Buttermilk Boulders near Bishop, CA, USA - © Ken Etzel / Red Bull Content Pool
You are very active now. Do you have time to make a plan about your life? What are your future plans?
There is always time to think about the future. The question is how much you actually should think about it because by the time you made plans everything will have changed again.
I do have many future plans and I'm sure half of them will change and there will be more things added to the list.
What do you like to do in your life apart from climbing?
I enjoy sports in general, I like photography, I like to cook. I spend time with friends, I read books, I do yoga.
Alex Megos tries to cool his fingertips after he has climbed Enfant de Boheme (8c+) at Chuenisberg in Switzerland - © Thomas Ballenberger / Red Bull Content Pool
What contributions does sponsor companies provide you? What do they expect from you?
That depends on the sponsor and on your contract. Some sponsors only provide equipment, some sponsors give you money.
The expectations, on the other hand, are as well different from sponsor to sponsor.
Depending on how much you get from your sponsor they as well want more in return.
Representing the sponsor in a proper way is most important. Some other work I do for my sponsors is, for example, visiting trade shows, doing slideshows, giving feedback on products and so on.
Alex Megos holds the swing to send 'Spectre' (V13) at the Buttermilk Boulders near Bishop, CA, USA - © Ken Etzel / Red Bull Content Pool
What are the common problems of rock climbers? What type of sponsors is most important for climbers?
Obviously, the first sponsorships you will get are based on gear. Mostly climbing shoes, clothes, carabiners, ropes, and chalk.
Sometimes you will as well get sponsored by brands outside from the outdoor industry. They will then fund your trips and give you financial support.
What is the best way to attract sponsors' attention? Do you have any advice for extreme sports athletes who want to pursue a professional career?
The best way to attract sponsors is to be the best at what you are doing. In my eyes, the sport should always come first, before social media. You are sponsored in the first place because of what you accomplished and achieved in your sports.
Additionally, you always have to think what do sponsors want to get out of a cooperation with you. In the best case (I think that should be the normal case) it's a win-win situation.
Alex Megos in New River Gorge National River, VW, USA - © Frank Kretschmann / Red Bull Content Pool
What do you think about social media? How did it affect the popularity of rock climbing? How can our readers follow you?
Social media became a big part of our lives nowadays. And as a professional athlete social media is as well part of your job. I think social media holds an opportunity for our sport to become more popular and to show the world what we are doing.
I still think you always have to see social media critically too. As good as it might be at times it has its negative impact on the sport and especially the community.
What is next for Alexander Megos?
More and better of the same I would say. I really enjoy pushing my limits and I'd like to continue to do so for a little while longer.
Thank you Alex for this enjoyable interview.