150 tons of sand sculptures showcased on Treasure Island beach

11/22/11 Andrea Lypka
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Over the weekend, visitors to Treasure Island saw 150 tons of sand transformed into massive sand sculptures.

Among the ten professionals from all over the world who competed for the Sanding Ovations Masters Cup last weekend was Rusty Croft from Carmel, California. He has been traveling all over the world for the last 14 years creating sand sculptures. Croft fought the windy weather and surrounded himself with buckets of sand for 24 hours to carve the masterpiece Sprouting Ideas. It’s a piece featuring giant heads.

“I came here without an idea,” Croft said. “I wanted to come up with a concept for this piece and I thought I would abstract the idea of not having an idea into the actual piece. So how do ideas come, how do they get created? Well, you actually see sprout of them. You feed it food and water and your brain comes up with an idea. That is the actual piece.”

Croft’s art installations include “The Lost City of Atlantis” a world record setting sculpture he helped create in San Diego in 1997. Since then he has carved sand full time. “It can be quick to carve but you can make a mistake just as fast. So you have to be careful with sand,” he said.

George and Judy Congo came to the event to learn from master sculptors. They both like to play in the sand and it doesn’t bother them that their work is ephemeral.

“Usually after I play for 10 hours on the beach,” George Congo said. “At the end of the day she would say let’s go home the sun is getting down and I have been on my knees for 10 hours working and we would walk away. And as soon as I would walk away kids would come and jump on it.If that upsets you, don’t do it because most of the time, as you are building, the sand keeps falling down anyway. It is collapsing on you, it is sand, it is transient, and you can’t have it upset you.”

So why is he not among the competitors?

“I am not good enough, I don’t have the training, I don’t have the background, I don’t have the genius to do this. This is cool stuff,” he said.

For most competitors, sand sculpting is a lifestyle. Meredith Corson, one of the organizers of the event, has been working with sand for the past 25 years.

“It is a passion. It’s work. This is fun. We get paid to work in the sand. People say pay for play in the sand, we are not playing, and we are working. But it is a process,” she said.

Corson was the first woman ever to win a Solo medal at the World Championships in 1999, and now holds 7 World Champion medals. Her sand sculpting career started at the Treasure Island Beach Fest in 1985 when she saw the carving of the world’s largest sandcastle. It took 5 days to pile it up and 5 more days to carve the castle which height was 37,165 cubic yards of sand and weight was 19,905 tons.

“And it inspired me. I saw what they are doing and I said I want to do that. I knew I could, I always worked with my hands. I saw the process of how they created it, you know getting the sand to stand and from there was just putting a sandbox in my backyard and just start playing around with it,” she said.

Corson hopes that people will come to see the works as long as they are up on the beach.

“It’s an art gallery on the beach. Literally, these are works of art. We want people to appreciate them and respect the art form and they do. And we also have music. It is a complete balance of art and music,” she said.

Jan Selen from Amsterdam, The Netherlands won first place.

Here are more photos from Sanding Ovations 2011

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