LONG BEACH, CALIFORNIA — Sculptures made of sand are transient, here today and gone tomorrow, subject to the whims of wind and waves. Yet each year, artists spend hours creating elaborate sand sculptures in a summertime competition.
It takes patience and skill to create a sand sculpture, and the annual competition here attracts sculptors and hobbyists who take the craft seriously, including Ko Tanaka, a professional architect.
“This is sand. Once in a while, it's not unusual that things collapse...spending so many hours and have it collapse. That happens,” says Tanaka.
This year, the competition highlights characters from books and is raising funds for the local library foundation.
Sandis Kondrats, whose sculpture is inspired by the novel Atlas Shrugged, is a professional artist who worked with granite and marble in his native Latvia.
“In sand, it's more open, it's more free. I can experiment. I can do it in two days. This is the second day for me. Compared with stone, granite, this would take almost a year,” says Kondrats.
For artists like Bruce Phillips, sand sculpting is a job.
“It's something you can just totally focus on and tune everything else out in the world. And I just quit my job and just did sand sculpture full time,” he said.
Like other professionals, Phillips is paid to display his art at promotional events around the world.
This competition also draws admirers from the community. Some get tips on sand sculpting and join the competition.
It's fun for kids, says sculptor Isabel Valaika.
“And it's really cool to make stuff out of sand because you're usually just seeing it on the ground,” she said.
Competition organizer Michael Anderson likes the fact that the sculptures are temporary.
“Even though castles made of sand fade into the sea, I think that that's the appeal, it's so transient,” says Anderson.
Rusty Croft modeled his sculpture on a whimsical character in a children's book. He says these creations are made for the moment.
“They're not supposed to last. It's kind of like life. It's here and then gone, so enjoy it now,” says Croft.
The sculptures will be gone, but many of these artists will be back next year, carving new creations in the sand.