With the end of summer looming, there are only a few days left in the year where we can head to the beach, play in the water, and build sandcastles with the kids.
With that in mind, we put together some sandcastle-building tips, brought to us by Gregory LeBon, founder of Archisand Professional Sand Sculptors in Mission Viejo, California.
Archisand Professional Sand Sculptors team working at the beach
Properly saturate your sand
LeBon compares the best sand for sandcastle building to the hard sand you walk on after a wave has washed over it. To create a heap of sand like this, LeBon begins with a shovelful of sand and then soaks the sand with a big bucket of water. Then he packs the saturated sand with his feet and tools, making sure to “beat the sand to death,” he said. Slowly, inch by inch, the pile of sand will grow, and he’ll eventually get as much sculpt-ready sand as he needs for his castle. “I always tell my team that you’re peeing into the wind if you don’t do this right,” he said.
Bring your model
Professional sand sculptors bring pictures of whatever it is they’re trying to recreate in sand form. “People often ask us, ‘How did you get it so lifelike?’” LeBon said. “We bring the artwork–the camera-ready logos from clients, the caricatures or human images.”
Find the right sand
The best sand for sandcastle building is extremely fine. “The very fine sand holds the water better and you can carve better details,” said LeBon, who tends to gravitate towards beaches with finer sand. He even sometimes brings sifters to the beach, so he can sift the shells, large sand grains, and pebbles out of the material he’ll eventually work with.
Work from the top down
Your sculpt-ready sand pile is packed from the bottom up, but once you’ve got the sand you’re going to work with, begin adding details from the top down. This is because as you carve details–windows, turrets, gargoyles–into your castle, sand will fall to the ground, effectively mussing up whatever might be below it.
Bring a spray bottle
Sun and wind are the biggest enemies to beautiful sandcastles, LeBon said, and on hot days LeBon and his team bring spray bottles to infuse their sand with water whenever it’s getting too dry. “The best days for building sandcastles are these June gloom days, where everything feels kind of wet,” he said.
Bring the right tools
Professional sandcastle builders use dozens of tools, some of which they even create themselves, but there are a variety of tools that you may have around the house that you can bring with you to the beach: a five-gallon bucket, gardening trowel, rake, spatula, melon baller or teaspoon, leveling tool, spray bottle, and icing spreader. Sand sculptors also borrow tools from other professions, such as the paintbrush, which they use to erase mistakes, and painting knives, which they use to carve details. The hand tamper, which is used in laying concrete, can be used in sand sculpting to pack the sand tightly together.
Bring your inner artist
No matter how well you pack your sand and the quality of your sand grains, if you lack a penchant for art, your sandcastles probably won’t win any contests. But no matter your artistic disposition, you can always have fun.
All photos courtesy Archisand Professional Sand Sculptors