December 13, 2012

Asa Firestone, Founder of BEYONDgear, Creating Adventure for Good


Meet Asa Firestone, founder of the CEU Urban Climbing School in Rio de Janeiro and BEYONDgear.

Photo: Max Kudisch

The Two Brothers seen from Ipanema Beach.

The Two Brothers seen from Ipanema Beach.

Asa Firestone has a vision in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  When he first saw the “Dois Irmãos”, or “Two Brothers”, at the far end of the world-famous Ipanema Beach in 2003, he saw a rock climber’s dream.  However, local climbers told him he couldn’t climb the peaks because of gang violence in the favelas (slums) of Vidigal and Rocinha that surround the base of the mountain.  These were serious concerns; thousands of murders take place every year in the favelas of Rio.  Rocinha itself was subject to a joint military/police invasion a little over a year ago to push the drug gangs out of Rio’s most developed slum ahead of the 2014 Brazil World Cup and 2016 Rio Summer Olympics.

The Rocinha favela sits right at the base of the north face of the Two Brothers.

The Rocinha favela sits right at the base of the north face of the Two Brothers.

Despite all that, Asa continued to see opportunity. Still in college at CU Boulder in 2003, he saw rock climbing as a way for favela youth to get out and enjoy the amazing topography they have right in their back yard.  By developing their rock climbing skills and a passion for the sport, you can also develop kids as members of their community. Fast-forwarding in time through college to business school and a few trips back to Brazil, by 2010 Asa had earned a National Geographic grant and a Kiehl’s sponsorship to start a climbing school in Rio.

Firestone founded the CEU Urban Climbing School in Rocinha with local climber Andrew Lenz that very year.  The climbing school is committed to fostering skills training, environmental stewardship, and community responsibility for favela kids and teenagers through rock climbing.  The CEU is hoping to expand it’s enrollment of 15 students and program of climbing, day hikes, community service, and guide certification by building a climbing wall in a government-managed sports complex in Rocinha.

A CEU student climbing Sugarloaf Peak outside Rio.

A CEU student climbing on Sugarloaf Peak outside Rio.

Still in business school after founding CEU, Asa put another idea to work.  In 2011, Asa created BEYONDgear, a social enterprise to help fund adventure sports for at-risk youth.  BEYONDgear is a rock climbing-based adventure lifestyle gear store and uses 50% of it’s profits to fund projects like the CEU rock climbing wall in Rio.  While Asa is currently putting all his efforts into CEU and BEYONDgear, he looks at the CEU and the Rocinha climbing wall project as a possible case study for future endeavors into other sports and locations.

As it is the season of giving, BEYONDgear has kicked off a $50000 campaign to fund the rock climbing wall.  Until Christmas, 100% of profits will be given to the CEU to use for the rock climbing wall in Rocinha.  The Adventure for Good campaign on Indiegogo offers pledge packages for various amounts for various BEYONDgear products (hats, t-shirts, chalk-bag, stopper jewelry), similar to Kickstarter campaigns.  If you aren’t sure about some holiday shopping, contribute to the campaign, get some gear, and know your dollars are being used for a great cause!

Asa looks over the Rochina favela from the two brothers.

Asa looks over the Rochina favela from the Two Brothers.

When you listen to Asa’s story, you are drawn to understand the passion that pushes humans to be the way they are.  The thrill and inspiration we get from action sports is shared through all participants, whether rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, skateboarding, etc.  Our very existence in this town, in these mountains, is based of what these sports have to offer us.  There is so much more than being the one who can ride or climb the hardest line the fastest, our lifestyles here prove that.  By creating the CEU and BEYONDgear, Asa Firestone has touched on how these sports can make us better people and members of our community.  We hope you can relate to his story, not just so you buy cool Christmas presents, but to look beyond the simple rush of flying down and climbing up mountains.  How does your passion for your sport make a positive impact on your community?


BEYONDgear is based in Boulder, Colorado.  For more information visit their website.
For the record, you pronounce Asa as ACE-uh, not ASS-uh.  Get it right.

About the Author

2. Will Dujardin
Will Dujardin is our content editor at West Elk Project. He competes in big mountain competitions and coaches the Crested Butte Mountain Sports Team. Skiing is his life and he likes to mix it with other fun things like DH mountain biking and traveling.