I love vacationing at the beach. Crashing zombie-like in a chair, eyes half shut, listening to the relaxing sound of waves lapping at the shore. In fact, sometimes it’s too relaxing. I almost hate to admit it but over the years this zombie has often been . . . bored.
So five years ago my husband and I decided to take up a new beach hobby: sand sculpting. We had watched a few Sand Masters shows on the Travel Channel and thought we could probably scale down the building process. After all, we weren’t going to enter any competitions, just entertain ourselves and kill a few hours before our afternoon margaritas. In sculpture competitions, experts truck in mixtures of sand and clay to maintain shapes, but we were all for going au naturale, using just the sand on the beach. We knew our creations would eventually be washed away with the tide.
We bought the book Sand Castles Made Simple by the Travel Channel’s Lucinda Wierenga to help with the initial sand/water ratio, base mounding technique, and to give us a few ideas since both my husband and I are artistically-challenged. Otherwise we found illustrations of sand creatures online and drew rough shapes on paper, then transferred the shapes to the beach and enlarged them.
We expected that beach walkers would be curious. What we didn’t expect was an audience of gawkers who would stop and chat, praise our creativity, snap photos, wave their kids and grandkids over and, later at the resort, call out to us, “Hey Sand People!” From this simple beach recreation we’ve met people from all over the world, travelers who post our photos on their Facebook pages and email them to their family members. We became celebrities out of boredom, simply by dragging a few pails, a shovel, and some carving tools to the beach.
If you’re thinking of trying your hand at sand sculpting, a few hints:
Check sand consistency. Pebbly, gravelly sand won’t work because it won’t hold together. You’ll want the consistency to be like sandbox sand. We usually sculpt on the Grand Strand in north Myrtle Beach, but we’ve also found the beach sand at Honeymoon Island, Florida, to be of good molding quality.
Gather household tools. No need to buy expensive sculpting tools. Use whatever you can find around your house or purchase at a discount store. A big pail and sturdy shovel. Butter knives and steak knives for carving. Plastic scrapers for smoothing. Small paintbrush for brushing sand off detail work. Resorts often have leftover beach toys, molds, and pails from vacationers who’ve already gone home.
Snap photos. The tide will wash away your creation — or kids will stomp on it. If you don’t take pictures immediately, you’ll have no bragging photos and nothing to show for hours of work except sandy knees.