Building sand castles takes hard work, skill and creativity
There’s a whole host of things to do on the beach — swimming, surfing or hunting for shells.
But for the creative and constructive, nothing beats building a sand castle.
The great thing about building sand castles is anyone can do it, said Emerson Schreiner with Sandy Feet Sandcastle Services.
Schreiner lives in Michigan part of the year, but during the summer months, he spends his time at Stewart Beach in Galveston teaching people to build the perfect, or most creative, sand castle.
A lot of people don’t know what goes into sand castle lessons, but it’s often a fun activity to do as a group, Schreiner said.
“It can be sort of eye-opening,” Schreiner said. “It opens up a whole new creative outlook.”
That’s what happened for several islanders who started getting serious about sand-castle building about three years ago.
Galveston has hosted the AIA Sandcastle Competition in August for more than 30 years, but in 2017, local resident Surinder Aulakh and several friends realized the competition, which draws 20,000 to 25,000 spectators, didn’t have a Galveston team.
They started a team, now called Galveston Local, that grew from about 13 members to more than 60 last year, Aulakh said. The team focuses on building Galveston architecture, last year constructing the Rosenberg Library, which opened in June 1904, and this year planning on the Balinese Room, a famous gambling hall that operated on a pier 600 feet into the Gulf of Mexico during the 1940s and 1950s. The Balinese Room building ultimately was destroyed by Hurricane Ike in 2008.
Figuring out how to build sand castles has been a long-term learning process, Aulakh said.
The team uses all kinds of tools from toothbrushes and spoons to wooden frames to help them mold their sculptures.
What a lot of people don’t think about is the physical demands of working on the beach for several hours, team member Evan McClimans said.
“You have to take breaks,” McClimans said. “The sun is a factor. It is way more work than we thought it was going to be.”
Because the competition only allows five hours, the team has learned to to build the base as quickly as possible to give members enough time for detail work, Aulakh said.
The team also has to keep its creation wet, team member Brandon Walker said.
“It’s like a cake batter,” Walker said. “You have to keep it constantly moist. It’s constantly evaporating.”
There’s a real technique to building sand castles, Schreiner said.
“We make a structure that’s strong and then we’ll carve it,” Schreiner said. “You can think of it sort of like if you were going to carve a wood sculpture, first you’d need a block of wood.”
Schreiner will sometimes construct more abstract sand art, but he really loves working with the classic sand castle, he said.
“It’s a form of sculpture,” Schreiner said. “If you learn the proper way to compact the sand and make it really strong, it opens up possibilities.”
Schreiner also paints, and while that’s typically serious and solitary, building sand castles is the opposite, he said.
“It’s more about whimsy and fun,” Schreiner said.
There is something wonderful about building a sand castle on Galveston’s beautiful beaches, team member Becky Major said.
“It’s amazing to watch the sun come up on the beach while you’re working,” Major said.
Editor’s note: Because of coronavirus precautions, it was unclear at this writing whether the AIA Sandcastle Competition would still go on this year.