Sand Sculptures at the South Street Seaport
Sand Sculpture
Kidifornia, California
Bear Sand Sculpture
Kids Building Sand Castles at Kidifornia

Since most beach-goers would enjoy some tips on building better sandcastles, I interviewed the world-famous sand sculptor, Todd Vander Pluym, when he visited New York on behalf of Visit California. Pluym was working on a kid-friendly 12-foot, 60-ton sand sculpture at South Street Seaport that featured California’s main tourist attractions, as well as bears, surf boards and a cruise ship to promote their kid-friendly family vacation package, Kidifornia. I couldn’t wait to learn how he did it.

In the Sand with Todd Vander Pluy m

First, I attended the kids workshop on building sand sculptures. We learned how to mold sand in our hands, when to use a bucket, and how to handle sharp sculpting tools safely. There was much excitement as the children got to make their own sand castles while standing next to the towering structure Pluym and his team continued to work on.

Todd Vander Pluym, president of Sand Sculptors International (SSI), has been creating sand sculptures professionally for over 20 years. His work has been admired on every continent except Antarctica, and he and his team have crafted more than 1,600 sculptures. The installations can range from classic sand castles, to mythical creatures, to famous movie characters made of sand. The SSI has been awarded nearly 200 titles, including four world championships.

Todd’s Top Sand Sculpting Tips

There are a few tips and tricks that kids and their grownups can learn to help make their sandcastle building easier.

  • Find the Right Sand- Your sand should be firm in your hand, and if you squeeze, it should not break apart. If it does, you’re probably at the wrong beach for sand sculpture building.
  • Use Tools- A sculpting tool or even a spoon will do, your hands can only do so much! Using a tool can push your sand art to the next level, and separate it from ordinary sand castles.
  • Be Mysterious- Work hard on your sculpture, but leave a little to the imagination. Having your work coming out of sand creates the illusion of depth, and makes it more interesting to the eye.
  • Have Fun- What should be an obvious rule is often forgotten. If you’re not enjoying building your sand sculpture, chances are people won’t enjoy looking at it. Remember to enjoy what you’re doing; sand sculpting is about having fun.

Defying Parents to Become a Sculptor

I discovered that Pluym had been building sand sculptures since early childhood. As he grew up, his mother encouraged him to get a real job, something more financially stable than making sand sculptures. Pluym then went into a successful career as an architect. For years he worked on plans for infrastructure, all the while making sand sculptures in his free time. Pluym was contacted by a man willing to pay for a large installation of sand, and from then on things changed. Pluym was able to start a career building sand sculptures professionally.

Do you think you have what it takes? Are you ready to compete yourselves?

Here are some options for competitions you can watch, though it’s probably too late to enter to compete for this year.

Top Sand Sculpture Events of 2017

The Texas Sand Fest, a yearly festival in Port Aransas, Texas, can be seen from April 21-April 23, 2017, rain or shine. It started in 1997 as play-on-the-beach day, and quickly grew into the massive sand sculpture event it is today. The Texas Sand Fest is run completely by volunteers, and proceeds from the go back into the community. Last year the festival awarded over $130,000 in funds. Tickets for adults are $10 for all three days, children under 12 are free. 

In Clearwater, Florida there is the Sugar Sand Festival. This year 11 professional sand sculptors will be following the theme FantaSea, imagining magical journeys underwater out of 21,000 square-feet of sugar sand. The festival will have many free all-ages activities, including a play area for kids, street performers, arts and crafts, live entertainment, fireworks, and sand sculpting classes. There will also be the sand sculpting competition, open to amateurs and professionals alike. Tickets are $10 for adults, $6 for ages 6-17, and $8 for seniors. Kids under 5 get in free. The festival will take place April 14-April 23, 2017.

Also in Florida is the International Sand Art Competition, located in Key West on Casa Marina Beach.  On November 22- Novmeber 26, thousands of sand sculptors from around the world will compete for the first place title on Key West’s largest privately owned beach. Attendees can dig for treasure, enjoy food from vendors, and see live bands perform during the event. 

For more sand sculpture events that you can enjoy as a spectator or train for in the future, visit Sand Sculpting Events. Please post photos in the Comment field below of whatever you create.

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