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Inside Beta

So You Want To Be A Pro Climber? Here’s How, in 5 Steps

From a former pro, the honest truth about how to get contracts, free shoes, and the van life of your dreams.

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Don’t quit your day job. But if you’re serious about going pro, here’s your ticklist. 

1. Be an Influencer. 

That word—influencer—gets a bad rap. And rightly so. No one wants to see you campusing a V0 in a banana hammock with a GoPro strapped to your head… O.K. maybe some people would want to see that. But by influencer, I mean be a community leader: the kind that understands the ethics of our sport, and supports those ethics in a visible way, both at the gym or the crag and online. As more and more get into climbing, we need people who both command a certain amount of attention and then use said attention to say stuff like, “Stop beta spraying.”

A good influencer smiles often. They’re charismatic. Outgoing. They have all the qualities of a leader. And the best influencers go deep—they talk about difficult issues and invite dialogue. They’re not just there for themselves; they show up for everyone. 

Take Drew Hulsey, for example, who just signed a deal with Hydroflax. In an article for Gym Climber, he wrote:

“I didn’t really see anyone who looked like me doing the sport, so I started sharing my climbs and my journey on social media. … When commenters made cracks or gave me flak, I pushed back. Having only seen people doing amazing and wonderful feats on social media, I wanted to create a space within the community to encourage others, regardless of their size, to try climbing as well.”

[Also Read: “Can bigger people climb?”—Drew Hulsey Found Climbing Is Every Body]

Influencers, like Hulsey, are changemakers, and they represent the best aspects of our sport.

2. It helps to be good. Let’s just keep this one simple, shall we? While it’s not necessary to be a top climber, it’ll certainly get people’s attention, which just feeds back into point one. If I had to pick some grades for you, I’d say, if you do nothing else on this list, you’ll want 5.14c/V14 and 5.14d/V15 in your wheelhouse, for women and men, respectively. Isabelle Fause might be a good example here: she’s low-key, even her insta is private. To my knowledge, she doesn’t go to gyms or teach clinics. Instead, she climbs outside, and crushes… hard. For that she earned a contract with Scarpa.

3. Know how to teach. So you’ve got the knowledge, but can you share it? It’s the job of a sponsored athlete to part the path for those that follow. Figure out your strengths, and put on clinics. Your sponsors will pay you for it. And it will mean the world to the kiddos that look up to you. A good example here might be Kai Lightner. He’s got a lot going for him, in terms of ticking things off this list, but he nails this especially: he attends event after event, to teach, spectate, offer commentary or MC. Take a look at his IG and you’ll see he cares about passing on knowledge and mentorship far more than most.

4. Be you. Ok, sounds cheesy, but seriously, be you. This point solidified for me when I became an editor. Nothing is worse than interviewing a great athlete that just sent something hard, and then they send back vanilla responses. 

You just sent V17. How are you feeling?

Pretty good.

Any advice for other climbers?

Always try your best.

K. Cool. Literally no one wants to read that, especially not your sponsors.

On the flip side, there’s people like Allison Vest, whose IG posts are authentic as hell. You watch her vids, showing her trying to drink from a water bottle using her foot, or attempting handstands on top of cars… They’re funny and unique and they make her stand out.

 

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A post shared by ALLISON VEST (@allisonvest)

5. Be relentless. In your pursuit of climbing, contracts, events, et cetera. Put yourself out there over and over and over again. Unless you’re Adam Ondra, only those that show up and ask will get the goods. And never miss a trade show… they’re soul-sucking, to be honest with you, but I never went to a show where I didn’t walk away with a new sponsor or a better relationship with a company.

Bonus Tip: Have a trust fund 😉