What do Queensland, Somerset, Hanalei, Amsterdam, and Fort Myers have in common? These exotic locations, and many more, are the sites of Sand Sculpting Championships all over the world.
There are some professions and talents that are very intriguing and some—after investigation—are so challenging there’s probably no hope of ever accomplishing the level of expertise that these artists demonstrate. Even though there’s a part me that thinks, “Sand? How could that be difficult to shape? After all, I’ve been to the beach, played in the sand, built castles with moats and decorated them with the flotsam and jetsam of the sea for years.”
However, after observing the recently completed entries, my initial skepticism for the design and execution of sand sculptures was transformed into awe.
This was the 33rd Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship presented by the Seminole Casino Hotel and held in Fort Myers Beach, brought to the area by the Fort Myers Chamber of Commerce. This year, there were 45 unique sculptures created completely from Fort Myers beach sand, according to Jacki Liszak, President and Executive Director of the Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce.
At this year’s event, the sand sculptors represented over 10 states and 8 different countries. The participating artists have accrued over 500 competition medals! This really is a bona fide competition with sand sculpting artists/professionals demonstrating their talents.
Amateur contest sculptures are separated from the higher-level competitors, which is probably a good idea. If I was entering my first competition, it would be intimidating to be adjacent to the World Champions. I would rather gather inspiration from the more experienced sand sculptors rather than be compared to them!
Many of the artists are indeed World Champions. These sculptors compete in the Master Sculptors Solo Division. Some, like Charlie Beaulieu from Virginia, Washington, whose sand sculpting days began way back in 1989 when his parents rented a summer cottage on the beach where there was plenty of raw material (sand) to play with. In addition to 12 World Championships and breaking seven Guinness Book World Records, he has sculpted all over the world.
Another Master Sand Sculptor goes by the name of “The Amazing Walter” who travels the world spreading the slogan, “Unlitter,” which is to counter the pervasive litter/throw it away habits of today. He plays multiple instruments proficiently, is an artist of many mediums and teaches sandcastle lessons in his free time. Walter McDonald has been sculpting sand from 1984.
John Goudy hails from Atlantic City, New Jersey. He started sand sculpting in 1990 and has been perfecting his skills for 30 years. He owns a sand sculpture company and with his wife, Laura, recently carved Pope Francis’ hometown church in Buenos Aires, Argentina at The Vatican in Rome. Goudy’s advice to artists is, “Keep evolving as an artist, press onward with your eyes wide open.”
It may seem like you are more successful with many years of experience in sand sculpting, but there are many other artists that have only just recently picked up the shovel. Bruce Peck, for example, started in 2013 and has already reached the Master Level.
Yes, there are women involved in these creative endeavors. Irina Sokolova from Russia started her sand modeling career in 2004. By 2010, her project for the sand sculpture competition in Blankenberg, Belgium was included in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Melineige Beauregard, who hails from Montreal, believes “sand sculpting is a spiritual experience, a means of communication, a way to transmit the energy of life, to affirm its vastness and its beauty.” From her start in 2001 until 2019, she has won more than 70 individual sand sculpting awards, including winning the Grand Champion award at the first All Woman World Championship of Sand Sculpting in Florida.
Laurie Arntz-Tournoux has been a tax-collector in Ohio for over 23 years and—in her free time—sculpts sand and creates commissioned logos from sand for special events; hence the nickname, “The Logo Queen.” Laurie started sand sculpting in 2011.
In addition to the Amateur Contest, there are Advanced Amateur State Championships, Master Solo Sculptures and Master Doubles Sculptures at the 33rd Annual American Sand Sculpting Championship in Fort Myers, Florida.
Who knew that sand sculpting competitions would be held in such glamorous places, and even more surprising are the numbers of events all over the world? Here’s a handful; Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach, Expo Quebec in Canada, Sandcastle Days on South Padre Island, Siesta Key Crystal Classic, Sand Sculpture Festival in Belgium, White Rock Sea Festival in BC Canada, Oregon International, US Open, Blue Water Sand Fest, Travel Channel’s Sand Wars and many more.
World Championships have been held all over the world, imagine that!
Google “Sand Sculpting” for ideas on how to create your own works of art on the beach.