A Paris-based climber, Asya Grechka, takes over as the new president of the non-profit organisation behind The Women's Bouldering Festival
The legal entity behind the WBF is a non-profit organisation registered in France under the name of l'Association Internationale des Bleausardes (l'AIB). To ensure adherence to the highest non-profit principles and practices, any French association must be led by a board of volunteers (bureau) comprising of a secretary, treasurer and president.
After the annual General Assembly held this May, l'AIB is proud to announce that Asya Grechka, who acted as a Mentor during the 2019 WBF, was elected new president.
Cutting the formalities short, let's just say that we're super psyched to have such a crusher and an all-round lovely person as Asya on board. You can get to know more about her by browsing her popular Instagram page and reading the interview below.
Q: Tell us a few things about yourself, your background, and how did you come to where you are with climbing.
A: I was born in Novosibirsk, Russia (Siberia) and my family moved to the US when I was five.
My parents are climbers and they climbed in Russia but both were adamant about me not getting into it as my dad had a bad accident. My mother was still going to the gym though. One day, I was about 10 at the time, I blocked the front door telling her that she would not leave for the gym without me! She gave in and I really fell in love with climbing immediately.
I was very active, doing other sports like soccer and competition figure skating, but eventually dropped it all for climbing. I got good very fast, consistently being the divisional champion (1/5 of the US) every year until I was fifteen. Then we left for France.
I basically stopped climbing for three years to focus on my studies but got back into it more than ever at university. At that time I moved to Paris and discovered my dear Fontainebleau. I started competing again, consistently getting into semi-finals in French Championships and getting second in France university championships.
However, I was always more motivated by being outdoors. In 2018 I surprised myself hen I climbed my first 8A boulder in Magic Wood. A year later I got my first Font 8A: "Misanthropie".
Q: Is that your favourite climbing achievement and what are your future goals?
A: Yes, "Misanthropie" is definitely a huge achievement for me. I was just obsessed with it since the moment I saw it. When I started working it, I would dream about it at night, go to work, nap during lunch time, and go to work the boulder after work again. In the end, I got it on my third session, which blew my mind. I guess it really showed me what dedication and trying hard could mean.
Now I want to climb more 8A's, maybe 8A+... I want to expand my climbing horizons too; do trad climbing, more alpinism, explore something "big". I also want to open a majestic boulder one day!
Q: Have you got a "day job" or are you a full-time climber?
A: My academic background is a double bachelor's in math and computer science, followed by a master's in artificial intelligence. Right now I am doing a PhD in deep learning. It is definitely another challenge. Hopefully I will succeed in this "8a" too :)
I also work as a computer vision engineer. Basically, I try to use artificial intelligence to enhance, edit, and generate photos.
Q: And you do all that in your... third language?
A: Yes, I speak 3 languages - Russian, English and French. (I have a dual Russian-French citizenship, and I am also a US green card holder.)
Q: With all of that on your plate, have you got time for any hobbies?
A: I like to run and I love yoga. I enjoy photography... and a good book is always nice... when I have the time!
Q: We're super happy to welcome you as the new president. Why were you drawn to the Association and the Festival?
A: I love what the association represents! Being a bleausarde still sounds foreign to a lot of people [editor's note: a female bleausard] and I love seeing more and more women passionate about Fontainebleau and climbing in general.
I love the fact that the association is changing the status quo; that climbing is more and more a "unisex" sport, which was not really the case when I started over fifteen years ago! Being a bleausarde is an honor to me and being the president of such a cool association is even more of an honor!
Ha, it's us who feel honoured. Thank you so much!
We can't help but be inspired by Asya's multitude of talents and psyche for everything she does.
At this time, we'd also like to extend our deepest thanks to Caroline Sinno, the first president of the Association who took us through the first and second edition of the Women's Bouldering Festival. Caro decided to step down from her role because of many other engagements she has to give her time to but we feel like she'll always be a part of the WBF family.
Keep your eyes peeled for updates to the main section of the website where we'll soon have bios of all the bureau members and key staff.