Building sandcastles sounds like an activity that should forever remain in the hands of children, but the World Championship of Sand Sculpting in Federal Way, Wash., proves otherwise.
These sand sculptures aren’t limited to castles nor architectural structures; the world championship website features a gallery of sculptures as delicately and intricately as those carved into wood or stone.
Some sculptures are individual free-standing forms, like a castle or figure, while others show elaborate scenes, which include sumo wrestlers, Jack escaping the giant on a beanstalk and an old couple sharing wine and cheese. It seems creating sculptures out of sand draws on our most whimsical creative juices.
But is this an art form or a sport? One could easily argue both. The world championship sandcastle sculpting website reads, “The contestants must have the physical ability of an athlete and the precision of a surgeon.”
There’s no doubting the competitive nature of the championships and sand sculptors need to be in good physical shape to be able to complete the challenge.
“Each [competitor], regardless of category, must load the sand by shovel into forms, wet it, compact the sand, and carve it to completion within a set time frame,” reads the websites rules for sandcastle scuplting.
This year, the competition runs Sept. 8 to Oct. 3 with 29 solo competitors, eight doubles and five teams. Competitors come from the United States, Canada, Italy, the Netherlands, Latvia, the U.K, Russia and Singapore.
As with any world championship, there must be qualifying competitions, and Canada hosts two of them: the Canadian Open Sand Sculpting Competition and Exhibition in Parksville, B.C., and the Pacific National Exhibition International Sand Sculpture Competition in Vancouver, B.C.
The Vancouver competition ended Aug. 29, with Susanne Ruseler of the Netherlands winning first place for her sculpture called “Forest Spirit.” The sculpture depicts a woman whose lower body turns into a tree.
Parksville’s competition took place July 16 to 18, with the sand sculptures on display until Aug. 15. Both sculptures chanelled childish playfulness by creating gigantic, intricate sandcastles. Bruce Waugh won first place for his solo sculpture of a fantastic, curvy castle, while the “Sandboxers” won first place for a team sculpture of a more traditional medieval castle.
Whether sport or art, viewing some of these sand sculptures will have you questioning your skills the next time you attempt to make a sand castle.