A Lesson in Sandcastles
Port Aransas Family Fun
Port Aransas, Texas, located along the Gulf of Mexico, is known for its fine coastal cuisine and beach attractions. The first weekend of October, my mother-in-law organized her sixtieth birthday party / family reunion at her favorite condo in Port Aransas filled with over 25 kids and adults all coming together for fun and celebration. She hired the Port A Sand Guy to give us a a lesson in sandcastle building.
Building a sandcastle on the beach is a fun, creative project that requires team work and a perfect event for family bonding. With the help of a professional to guide the steps along the way, we built an impressive sandcastle. One passer-by after the completion kindly called our sand creation Camelot. Even though I have grown up around the beach, I do not have any special skills for building with sand. After this 90 minute to two hour lesson, we learned the how to build a better sandcastle. The materials we used were the following: sand. water, shovel, buckets, and shaping tools.
We picked a good location close to the water. The texture of the sand is important and the right mixture of sand and water is key. Port Aransas happens to be considered one of the world's best sand for building sand sculptures. Every year around April amazing sand sculptures are built at the The Port Aransas SandFest.
Following the lesson, I now know the basics of sand building.
- build a base
- build the form
Building the Base
The right consistency of the sand and water is part of the art of the entire process which we carefully followed under professional guidance. Creating a firm foundation is a critical step to ensure your structure will stand. We shoveled on firm sand about 3 scoops of loose sand. The rough, loose sand was then smoothed out with edges around the circumference like building a pie shell. Team work comes in very handy for this step as a mixture of water and sand is then added to the pie shell base and kneaded. The soft sand becomes firmly packed sand with the soft edges around the circumference blended to a solid level.
Building the Form
After the base is created, building the form begins. The Sand Guy taught us two techniques for building the form. The first technique used a bucket with a bottom cut out. Team work was also helpful for this step. A bucket was filled to the rim with layers of sand and water to pack the bucket. It then was gently shaken to ensure the bucket was in the perfect alignment. The bucket was removed carefully straight up and the form was created.
The Sand Guy also guided us in a helpful technique which he calls "scoop, plop, and jiggle" to build up the form further. "Scoop" up the wet sand mixture with two hands, quickly "plop" it onto the base, then "jiggle" the large chuck of sand with one hand. The result should look like a thick flat pancake. Layer by layer we built what looks like a stack of sand pancakes. The stacks of sand pancakes was added to the firm bucket base form to about waist height. It was important not to press down as it may have caused the base to crack.
This technique requires some skill and practice so that the form worked it way up vertically without leaning. If you can master this technique, you can build sand into just about any shape you want and let your imagination go.
Shape and Decorate
All the essentials for the decorating the perfect castle were instructed. Plastic spoon, knife, and fork made the perfect amateur sculpting materials issued to use by the Sand Guy. He guided us, step by step, on how to carve out the roof, make different textures like bricks and shingles, insert windows, and build parapets. We also created wrap around spiral staircases. Each person carefully created their own unique castle design which we fused together with sand walls surrounded by a moat and a small forest. The most time and attention went to the "princess" design. My son had fun building his "wizard's castle".
The Sand Guy
The Port A Sand Guy, Mark Landrum, reports he started building sandcastles in 1999, and now it is his full time business which he states "it all started with a simple sandcastle lesson". The travel channel features a show called Sand Masters where these professional "sand guys" travel all over the world to create unique sand creations.
I really can't wait to get back to the beach and begin my next sandcastle. Perhaps I will build a castle inspired by Antoni Gaudí because of my love of architecture. Advanced lessons are also offered to learn the more complex design elements and bigger forms.
- T E X A S - S A N D F E S T - Port Aransas Texas
The Official Texas Sand Sculpture Festival
Port A Sandcastle Guy
- Sandcastles of the Texas Gulf Coast
Sandcastle pictures, lessons, and information. Enter the world of Sand Sculptures.