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World Masters

There are perhaps 50 sand artists on the planet who may be called World Masters, who are capable of literally blowing you away with their work. That’s it. Some say there are fewer than that. From our inception in 2011 until this year, 34 of the very best will have participated in the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge in SAND iego. That’s about 2/3 of the most talented artists in this medium on earth. Wow!

Those who participate must be invited by the producers. They must have won at least one other major competition in the world. Many of our sculptors have won many.

We invite the best from outside the U.S. to compete against the best in the States. That’s why we call this the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge.

Last year an American won for the first time since our inaugural. Well, he’s actually a Dutchman who lives in Florida. One year our winner claimed the victory for Latvia, even though he was living in Tacoma, WA. It gets complicated. Maybe we should call this the guess-where-the-sculptors-are-from event. For example, Master Sculptors include a retired Atlantic City, NJ, fire chief who mostly lives in Italy, a Dutch lady who also spends half her time in Italy, a California lady who lives in Eastern Canada half the time. Frankly these folks travel so much that we’re thankful we can reach them via email, rather than sending a poor Pony Express rider out to chase them down.

Find more info below on each of the hugely talented sand artists who will be or have visited with us on the beautiful downtown SAND iego waterfront, along with links to learn more about them and see more of their art. It’s totally amazing.

Helena Bangert/Netherlands *Melineige Beauregard/Canada *Dan Belcher/St. Louis Katsuhiko Chaen/Japan *Jihoon Choi/South Korea Michela Ciappini/Italy Rusty Croft/Carmel, CA Ilya Filimontsev/Russia *John Gowdy/Italy and Atlantic City, NJ *Chris Guinto/Key West, FL Marielle Heessels/Netherlands Dave Henderson/Alpine, CA Joris Kivits/Netherlands and Mexico Dmitry Klimenko/St. Petersburg, Russia *Thomas Koet/Melbourne, FL Sandis Kondrats/Latvia and Seattle *Anique Kuizenga/Netherlands Sue McGrew/Seattle Fergus Mulvany/Ireland Meg Murray/Australia *Pavel Mylnikov/Russia Bruce Phillips/Carlsbad, CA Benjamin Probanza/Spain and Mexico Kirk Rademaker/Stinson Beach, CA *Martijn Rijerse/Holland Morgan Rudluff/Santa Cruz, CA Agnese Rudzite-Kirillova/Latvia Susanne Ruseler/Holland *Hanneke Supply/Holland JOOheng Tan/Singapore *Brian Turnbough/Chicago, IL Leonardo Ugolini/Italy *Abram Waterman/Prince Edward Island, Canada Lucinda Wierenga/South Padre Island, TX

*Appearing in 2019

Sculpting Since: 2000
Location: Netherlands

Although Helena studied sculpting and installation art at the prestigious Rietveld Art Academy in Amsterdam, she admits she never considered sculpting in sand.  It wasn’t until 2000, two years after she graduated, when she was asked to create a sculpture at a retirement home for seamen, that her interest in the medium was piqued.  “It was in a small coastal village, so sand just made sense.”  “We clicked,” she said about her relationship with the material.

In 2002 she entered the Sand Sculpture Festival in Italy and won 1st prize from the jury.  Since then Helena has continued to amass prizes for her sand sculptures and has delved into snow and ice sculpting as well. While having a plan for a sand sculpture is important, Helena loves the medium’s flexibility. “I’ll start somewhere but then see something that takes me in a different direction.” What she sees invariably translates into something beautiful for our eyes too!

Major Achievements:

  • 2nd Place in Doubles with Joo Heng Tan at the 2010 World Championship of Sand Sculpting – Washington
  • 1st place in Solo Speed Carving at the 2010 Internationales Sandskulpturenfestival – Rorschach, Switzerland, 2010
  • 2nd Place Solo at the 2010 International Sand Sculpting Competition – Moscow, Russia
  • 1st Place in Doubles with Carl Jara at the 2008 Neptune Festival – Virginia Beach, VA
  • Many more

Website: http://www.helenabangert.com

Sculpting Since: 2001
Location: Quebec, Canada

Some believe sand sculpting is art, some believe it’s a sport. While others, like Melineige, believe it’s a spiritual experience.  “When my hands touch the material, when my heart opens to give life, when my head is illuminated by light, I become the co-creator of the universe,” she said.  “An artist is one who spiritualizes matter.”  She should know.  Art is in her blood. Her father is internationally renowned sculptor Guy Beauregard, and like her father, she too has achieved international success.  In fact, in 2004 the father-daughter duo teamed to win the World Championship in the doubles category. Since then she has won more than 70 individual awards worldwide. “For me, art is a means of communication, a way to transmit the energy of life, to affirm its vastness and its beauty,” she waxed poetically.

Notable Achievements:

  • Grand Prize, 2017 Masters Sandsculpting Classic, Hampton Beach, NH
  • Grand Prizes 2016:
    • World Championship of Sand Sculpting, Taiwan
    • Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach, VA
    • Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival, Revere Beach, MA
    • American Sand Sculpting Championship, Ft. Myers Beach, FL
  • Sculptors’ Choice. 2016 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego, CA
  • Grand Prize, Sculptors’ Choice and People’s Choice, 2015 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego, CA
  • Grand Prize, Doubles, 2014 Sand Sculpting World Cup, Atlantic City, NJ
  • Grand Champion, 2014 All Woman World Championship of Sand Sculpting, Sarasota, FL
  • 2nd place, World Masters Class at the 2013 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge – San Diego
  • Grand Champion of the 2011 “Quick Sand’ competition, World Championship of Sand Sculpting – Sarasota, FL

Website: http://www.sculpturebeauregard.com

Sculpting Since: 1990

Location: St. Louis, MO, USA

Dan has been creating professional sand sculptures across the continent and around the globe for 29 years. He says he is honored to have learned from many pioneers of the art form, and now to have the privilege of collaborating with a family of many of the best new, talented sand sculptors on the planet.

Honored indeed. He is among the world’s most awarded sand artists. “Sand sculpture is a test—it can flow like a dance, or feel like a wrestling match. It is an exhilarating, physical, and creative endeavor; a wonderful process and an awe-inspiring product; a means of calm focus, and a cause of frustration. Remember— no magic, no tricks— just effort and desire.”

Dan is also an accomplished landscape architect and urban planner (degreed from Kansas State University) and is a founding partner in a microbrewery in Wentzville, MO. Carving sand. Brewing beer. Enjoying good friends. What else is there?

Notable accomplishments:

  • 2016 Grand Prize doubles, Revere Beach Sand Festival, Revere Beach, MA
    • 2nd Prize doubles, Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach, VA
  • 2015 3rd Prize World Masters Class, U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego, CA
  • 17 world championships

On the web:

Sculpting Since: 1987
Location: Japan

A 1983 graduate of Musashino Art University in Tokyo, Katsu has become one of the leading sand sculptors in the world.  He is also a renowned producer and director of amazing events that have been staged, not only in Japan, but also in Singapore, India, Kuwait, Italy, Holland, Canada and here in the U.S.

He has been honored as “One of 100 Japanese individuals the World Respects”.  In his home country, he pioneered modern sand sculpting when he founded the Fukiage-hame Sand Festival in 1987, which ran continuously until 2002.  Since 2006, he has been Executive Producer of the Tottori Sand Dunes Sand Museum, the only venue of its kind in the world.  In 2014 he brought together the world’s leading sculptors to participate in a ground-breaking Tri-National Celebration in Yokohama, featuring historical figures from Japan, South Korea and China.

The U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge is itself honored to have Katsu come to San Diego to compete against other amazing sculptors worldwide and some of the best sculptors in our country.

Major Achievements:

  • 2015 – 2nd place, Bulgaria
  • 2013 – 2nd place and People’s Choice, Copenhagen
  • 2011 – People’s Choice, Slovakia
  • 2010 – 1st place, Virginia Beach and Matera, Italy
  • 2008 – 1st place, Harrison Hot Springs, Canada and Matera, Italy
  • 2006 – 2nd place doubles, Quebec
  • 1999 – 1st place, Singapore
  • Many more awards from around the globe

On the Web:  http://www.sand-museum.jp/en/?page_id=68

Sculpting Since: 2005
Location: Taijeon City, South Korea

Now 42 years young, married with a beautiful daughter, Jihoon was born and raised in South Korea.  He studied environmental sculpture at the University of Taijeon, and has been dreaming of creating sand sculptures all his life.  For nearly 15 years now, he’s actually been doing it. 

He’s performed his art at corporate events, festivals and competitions throughout South Korea and in Taiwan, Japan, Kuwait, Europe and the U.S., and he’s won a number of prestigious awards.  Jihoon teaches the art of sand sculpture in his native land, where he has invented and marketed sand toys for kids. 

He was invited to attend the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge 3 years ago, made the trip here, but became ill and had to fly home before the competition began. Now, for the first time in Southern California, we’ll get a chance to see him create!  We are really looking forward to it.

Sculpting Since: 2003
Location: Italy

Michela’s artistic ambition was simple.  She wanted to draw.  And so she did, studying at the Art Institute in Italy.  But it was during a scenery course that she discovered a new direction for her creativity.  She worked as a set designer on several productions, creating background paintings and sculptures.

Then, in 2003, while at the beach near her home, she began carving sand as a way to visualize her ideas for stage sets.  “I used sand sculpting as a way to train myself as an artist,” Michela said.  Soon Michela was hooked on the beauty of the medium.

And now art lovers throughout the world are hooked on the beauty that Michela creates in sand, as she carves incredible variations of the human form. “There are so many different styles of composition,” she said. “It’s amazing what you can do with only sand and water.” Amazing, indeed.

Notable Achievements:

  • First place doubles with Joris Kivits, 2012 Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach
  • Third place solo, 2012 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego

Website: http://www.michelaciappini.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/michela.ciappini

Sculpting Since: 1997
Location: Carmel, California

When your first project sets a world record, you know you’re onto something big.  Such was the case with Rusty Croft, an Iowa kid who became an ice sculptor in Partyville, sometimes known as Park City, Utah.  Partying came to an end (not exactly) when he was smitten by his bride-to-be.  They emigrated to Carmel, CA, where without ice, Rusty turned to sculpting sand.  (Tough life.)

His first professional gig was in San Diego in 1997 where he worked with an international team creating the world-record setting sculpture, “The Lost City of Atlantis” (a 20-acre recreation of the paradise buried beneath the sea).  He went on to sculpt and win awards all over the world and become one of the preeminent personalities in the art.

Despite his success, Rusty still remembers how intrigued he was when he saw his first sand sculpture. “I was instantly in love,” he recalls.  Now he hopes that his work will inspire and motivate a new generation of sand sculptors. “My motto is ‘dig in and make art,’” he said. “It’s that simple.”

Notable Achievements:

  • 3rd prize, 2014 Sand Sculpting World Cup, Atlantic City, NJ
  • Peoples’ Choice award, 2014 South Padre Island, TX
  • Grand prize and People’s Choice winner, World Masters Class, 2012 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge
  • With Kirk Rademaker, co-owner of Sand Guys, the sand sculpture and team-builder firm that serves legendary Silicon Valley corporations like Yahoo!, Google and Facebook
  • Co-host of Sand Masters on The Travel Channel
  • Appeared on Good Morning America and featured in Sunset, Phoenix Home and Garden and American Lifestyles Magazines

Website: http://www.sandguys.com

Sculpting Since: 2005

Location: Moscow, Russia

After studying at the art college in Moscow, Ilya worked as a jeweler/goldsmith designing and making jewelry for 7 years. While working as a jeweler he started making ice sculptures and found the combination of traveling and sculpting enjoyable. He quit the jewelry job and continued to study sculpture for 6 more years at the Moscow State Academic Art Institute of Surikov.

Now one of the world’s top sand artists, he is in demand all over the globe.

Notable accomplishments:

  • 2017 — Grand Prize Doubles, Sand City Spectacular, Pittsburgh, PA
  • 2016 — Grand Prize, U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego, CA
    • Grand Prize Doubles, Canadian Open Sandcastle Competition, Parksville, B.C.
  • 2014 — 3 Grand Prizes (Taiwan, Finland, Toronto) plus one 2nd (Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach)
  • 2013 — Grand Prize (Toronto), 2nd (Italy, 3rd (Holland)
  • Many, many other honors dating back to his first year sculpting

On the Web: https://www.flickr.com/photos/119011598@N08/sets/72157641635399675/

Sculpting Since:  1990
Location:   Jersey Boy, now living in Italy

John isn’t your average retired Atlantic City firefighter.  In fact, there’s nothing average about John at all.  He’s been fighting fires since 1980 and sculpting sand since 1990.  He retired as a Fire Captain in 2006, moved to Italy and became a full-time (and already internationally acclaimed) artist in several media.  He sculpts in marble, as well as sand.

And he paints the world’s leading personalities in minutes, using a technique he calls “Flying Colors.”

John has helped bring sand sculpting into the public consciousness with appearances on The Discovery Channel, the syndicated Martha Stewart Show, and The Travel Channel’s Sand Wars. He’s a hero in his native Atlantic City, and to sand aficionados everywhere.

Notable Achievements:

  • Many first place awards worldwide as both amateur and professional
  • Winner of “Sand Wars” on The Travel Channel
  • Created and presented a sand replica of the Pontiff’s Argentinian Cathedral to Pope Francis at the Vatican
  • Performed his “Flying Colors” for Queen Elizabeth on her Diamond Jubilee

Website: http://www.johngowdy.com

Sculpting Since:  2000
Location:  Key West, FL

After several opportunities to have a career in different artistic fields, Chris chose to become a sand sculptor . . . one who pushes the envelope through unique design and amazing height, consistently “raising the bar”.  With a background in special effects and fine art, he combines the two in creative sculptures that show sometimes familiar scenes in a fresh and original way.

Chris was one of the stars in the widely acclaimed television series ‘Sand Masters’, ‘Sand Wars’ & ‘Sand Blasters’ on the Travel and Discovery Channels.

He’s married to another award-winning Master Sculptor, Marianne van den Broek.  She’s the one who holds the Guiness Book record for the tallest solo sculpture at 58’ 6”.   Married since 2002 and sculpting around the world, together they reach new heights.

Website:   http://www.sandisle.com

Marielle Heessels

Sculpting Since: 2006
Location: Netherlands

She started model drawing at the age of 15 and since then studying nature is the base of her art. After many years of painting and sculpting for museums and entertainment venues, she discovered sand sculpture. Because of its temporary quality, it became a perfect medium to learn and grow her talent and ability as a sculptor. And because it is fast, she says, it is easy to work on a large scale.

The piece de resistance is that it’s also a way to work with the best and nicest colleagues and to travel, meet wonderful people and experience different cultures all over the world.



Notable Achievements:

  • Winner, doubles competition with David Ducharme, Parksville, B.C., Canada 2015
  • Winner, Dutch Sandsculpture Championship (solo competition), Zandvoort, the Netherlands 2011
  • World Championship, Federal Way, WA 2010

Website: www.marielleheessels.nl

dave henderson

Sculpting Since: 1990
Location: Alpine, CA

During the 1990s, Dave was one of the planet’s top sand sculptors, winning the U.S. Open in Imperial Beach and a number of other competitions around the world. In 1998, he retired from touring to devote more time to his family and establish Henderson Sculptural Arts, a landscaping construction company specialized in designing, creating and maintaining waterfall and grotto features, ponds and pools for some of San Diego’s most exclusive properties.

He came out of his self-imposed sand-art exile in 2011 (if only briefly) to help us with the inaugural edition of the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge. The work he created that year (“Sand Castles on My Mind”) has become an icon, as it has appeared in dozens of posters and ads on our behalf. More recently he has agreed to be on our expert panel of judges, a great honor for us and a fantastic learning experience for our younger elite World Masters.

Website: http://www.hendersonarts.com

Sculpting Since:   2006
Location:   Netherlands
Photographer? Graphic designer? Art director? Illustrator? Sculptor? Like most sand sculptors, Joris is…first and foremost…an artist. Whatever the medium, whatever the project, he believes that beauty should shine through. This mentality has guided his career in movies and television, in commercials and music videos, and has carried over into his work with sand.  Although Joris has only been sculpting sand since 2006, he has already had several notable achievements in competitions throughout the world.  Recently, Joris has gotten involved with sculpting marble, which he admits is a very different medium: “This will be around for a while,” Joris says. “But sand is like live theater…you enjoy it while it’s happening and then it only lives in your heart and mind.”

Notable Achievements:

  • Won juried and peoples choice awards in Italy, Germany and Russia
  • First place doubles with Michela Ciappini, 2012 Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach
  • Also competed in England, Belgium, Portugal, the World Championships in Washington (solo and doubles)
  • Exhibited at the Sport/Fashion/Live-stile Event in Germany

Website: http://www.joriskivits.nl

Dmitry Klimenko

Sculpting Since: 2004
Location: St. Petersburg, Russia

Dmitry finished Saint Petersburg State Academy of Art in 2004 and began carving in sand that very same year. Since then he’s taken part in international sand sculpture festivals in no less than 15 countries: Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Germany, Holland, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Latvia, Poland, Taiwan, the United States and, of course, his native Russia. Wow, that’s tiring.

Like all of the World Masters participating in the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, Dmitry has won numerous awards and has worked in a number of media as well, including ice, bronze and wood.

He’ll never stop working in sand, though, as he says that creating with his peers all over the world provides him with continuous possibilities to learn. Bravo, Dmitri!

Notable Achievements:

  • 2017 – Grand prize, doubles with David duCharme, Canadian Open, Parksville Beach, B.C.
  • 2016 – Sculptors’ Choice, International Sand Sculpting Competition, Revere Beach, MA
  • 2016 – 2nd place, doubles with Andrius Petkus, Crystal Classic, Siesta Key, FL

Sculpting Since: 1996
Location: Melbourne, FL

“The sand here on this pier in San Diego is incredible. It holds together so well, and it is so strong; you can do anything with it. Right here is where I make the most daring designs and push the sand to incredible shapes that would be impossible anywhere else. On top of that we have some of the world’s best sculptors making their best works. Every year I look forward to seeing the amazing sculptures of this competition.”

A fierce competitor, Thomas has been sculpting sand for 21 years. In the past 3 years alone here in San Diego Thomas won first, second and third place medals as well as the Sculptor’s Choice award. See below for many many more accolades.

Large events give Thomas the opportunity to make his art on an impressive scale. Thomas has a master’s degree in industrial design engineering and has been a designer and sculptor for some of Europe’s and North America’s largest sand sculpting events. His ability and talent have taken him all over Europe and the U.S. as well as to China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Qatar and Canada. Thomas is a partner in Sandsational Sand Sculpting.

Earlier Achievements:

  • 2014 – 2nd place, solo, Tournament of Champions, Toronto
  • 2012 – 3rd place and Sculptor’s Choice, USA Team, Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach, VA
  • 2011 – 2nd place, solo, Tournament of Champions, Toronto
  • 2010 – 1st place, solo, World Championship of Sand Sculpting, Federal Way, WA, 1st place and People’s Choice, Tournament of Champions, Toronto, 1st place, USA solo, Art of Sand, Cape Canaveral, FL
  • 2009 – 1st place, People’s Choice, Sculptors’ Choice, USA Team, Port Aransas, TX, 2nd place and Sculptors’ Choice, Canada Team, Quebec
  • 2008 – 3 1st place awards, 2 2nd place awards, 3 People’s Choice awards, 1 Sculptors’ Choice, events in U.S. and Germany
  • 2001-2007 – 17 more

On the Web:  www.Sandsational.com

Sculpting Since:  2001
Location:  Latvia

World traveler, sculptor and entrepreneur, Sandis studied art for more than 16 years, starting at age 9.  He holds multiple Masters of Arts degrees from the Art Academy of Latvia.

He has sculpted at contests, festivals and exhibitions all around the world, served as artistic and technical director for numerous sculpting festivals in Europe, as President of the Baltic Association of Sand Sculpture and CEO of the Frostiart Baltic Company.

Traveling the world enables Sandis to learn more about other cultures, religions and traditions.  He loves to challenge social, political and cultural assumptions, and tell stories with his art.

He works in many media and respects the nature of each.  He is fascinated by the diversity of materials and technical opportunities of the 21st century.

Sandis is currently working on a social art project “the Latvian Story” and is writing a book “Anatomy for Sculptors”.   His energy and passion are boundless.

Notable Achievements:

  • Grand Prize World Masters Class, 2013 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge – San Diego
  • Named “Best Sculptor” – Cannon Beach, OR, 2012
  • Numerous additional awards for his sculptures in snow, ice, sand and stone

Website:  www.sand-is.com

Sculpting Since: 1996
Location: Groningen, The Netherlands

Though Anique is driven by the nature of “fleeting” art through materials such as sand, ice and snow, she says her passion for sand sculpting will never die. That’s because she constantly draws inspiration from the people, sounds, and smells she encounters. Anique began her practice in 1996 as a student at the Academy for Fine Arts Minerva in Groningen, The Netherlands. These formative years gave rise to what’s now considered Anique’s diverse and intellectual reputation as a sand artist.

Anique believes sand allows each new sculpture to be an “adventure”. Her work has been featured in festivals and competitions around the world and continues to wow civilians and industry colleagues alike. Anique even met her husband while “on the pile”. She says she’s “very fortunate to have had the opportunity to travel and meet so many creative souls”. Congrats Anique!

Website: http://aniquekuizenga.com

Sculpting Since: High School
Location: Tacoma, Washington

High School love doesn’t tend to last, but for Sue McGrew it hasn’t just lasted…it’s thrived.  She got a taste of sand sculpting in high school and was immediately smitten.  “I was hopelessly addicted,” she admitted.  And that love only grew when she went to USC to study Theatre-Stage Management (with a minor in Sculpture of course).  After getting her BFA, Sue focused on sand sculpting and entered competitions with great success.

She is one of the youngest professional sand sculptors in the world and has also shown prowess in snow and ice sculpting. “I think you never stop growing . . . I want to grow as an artist across all media,” she said.  She has been featured on Sand Masters on The Travel Channel, as well as Sandblaster III – The Extreme Sand Sculpting Competition.  With talent, skill and youth all on her side, Sue has become a major player in competitive sand sculpting.

Notable Achievements:

  • Regular on the televised show Sand Masters on The Travel Channel
  • Appeared on The Travel Channel’s television show Sandblaster III – The Extreme Sand Sculpting Competition
  • 2nd place at the 2014 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego
  • 1st Place at the 2012 Sand Fest in Texas
  • 2nd Place at the 2011 Windemere Classic in Washington

Website: https://suemcgrew.com/

Sculpting Since: 1993
Location:  Dublin, Ireland

Fate works in funny ways. Fergus Mulvany never thought about sand sculpting while studying fine art in Dublin. Even as a child, he was never drawn to playing in the sand at the beach. But Fergus’ name was randomly drawn from those of hundreds of students to participate in a sand festival held in Holland in 1993. And since that fateful event, he has developed a passion for the gritty stuff, competing all over the world. Of course he works in other media as well. During winter, Fergus focuses on snow and ice sculptures and works with more traditional materials such as steel, wood, cement and glass. Regardless of the material, Fergus’s creative philosophy remains the same, “I’m guided by an organic process rather than a strict idea,” he said. And of course, sometimes he’s simply guided by fate.

Notable Achievements:

  • 2nd place, World Masters Class, 2016 and 2015 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego
  • Grand prize, 2014 and 2013 European Championships, Zandvoort, Holland
  • 2nd place and Sculptors’ Choice awards, World Masters Class, 2012 U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego
  • Sculptors’ Choice Award, 3 consecutive years, Sand World Festival, Weymouth, England
  • 1st prize at the 2011 Tournament of Champions in Washington
  • 4th prize at the 2011 U.S. Championships in Florida
  • Sculptor’s Choice Award at the 2011 Solo International Championships in Moscow, Russia

Website: http://www.sandworld.co.uk/meet-the-sculptors/fergus-melvaney/

Meg Murray

Sculpting Since: 2001
Location: Australia

Tasmanian born, Meg had an early start to an artistic life, as her grandparents – the Architect and the Fine Artist – were a huge encouraging influence. Classically trained Meg has been painting canvases for over 35 years and has always been interested in trying new media. Meg developed a passion for Sand Sculpting 18 years ago as a volunteer. Since then, her appearances throughout Australia and around the world have given her the opportunity to work with and learn from some of the best.

Meg believes that sand is a healer. Amazing ephemeral art, here one minute and gone the next, it teaches letting things go, resilience and strength of character. It is very similar to this life we live, as we are here only for a short time and we seek to fill our lives with wonderful, priceless memories.

Notable Achievements:

  • 2017 – 1st place and People’s Choice Award, Australian Sand Sculpting Championships
  • 2014 – 3rd place Australian Sand Sculpting Championships
  • 2012 – 1st place Australian Sand Sculpting Championships
  • 2003 – 1st place Australian Sand Sculpting Championships
    Plus many other painting awards and International events

Website: www.megmurray.com.au

Sculpting Since: 1989
Location: Moscow, Russia

Pavel has been drawn to art since childhood. At the age of 19 he launched his career in sand sculpture and the rest is history. Pavel studied at Moscow’s Academic Art Institute Surikov and went on to develop a signature style of realism and surrealism. His work reflects an inner world of creativity and wonder.

Due to his recognizable work, Pavel has become a household name in the industry. That is why his art has been recruited into private collections in Russia, America, and Europe. Other than sand, Pavel frequently works with bronze, wood, stone, ice, and snow. He is coming to the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge with a special relationship to San Diego – it was the place that launched his career back in 1997 with his first sand sculpting competition. Welcome back Pavel.

Notable Achievements:

  • 5 time winner of World Championships of Sand Sculpture
  • 13 time winner of various International Sand Competitions

Website: http://www.en.mylnikov-art.ru/

Bruce has been involved in the art of sand sculpting for over 20 years (well over . . . but don’t tell him we said that).  He is known throughout the world, from Tokyo to Amsterdam.  He creates amazing works of art at festivals and competitions, and does corporate and private events as well.  In addition to sand, Bruce has fabricated sculptures from small to very large scale in a wide variety of other media

He says he has enjoyed watching sand sculpture evolve into a major performing arts attraction.  And performance is what he’s all about.   Because some of the other media that he’s involved in are steel, iron and aluminum, fiberglass, glass, rubber , gasoline and oil . . . have you guessed . . . rolling works of art that some people call hotrods and custom cars.

In the world of sand, Bruce has won the 3-member division of the U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition 7 times, and holds no less than 5 world records.  Oh, and he won the People’s Choice award for Best Masters Sculpture of 2013 right here at the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge.  ‘Nuf said?

Sculpting Since: 1988
Location: Mexico City

Born in Spain in 1963, Benjamin was attracted to art while still in the cradle.  While just a teenager, he performed painting exhibitions in his hometown of San Sebastian.

He discovered sand sculpting at 25, and has been a leading figure in this art ever since.  In 1997, he participated in the first International Competition in the Canary Islands and took 2nd place.  (He has won dozens of awards since then.)  In 1998, he began consulting and producing festivals around the globe.  He has left his mark in places as diverse as Belgium and Indonesia, Holland and Colombia, Mexico and Qatar, the U.S. and China.

In addition to sand sculpting, Sr. Probanza works in stop-motion animation with sand, clay and other materials.  He builds miniature models and does macro-photography.  He’s into toy design and new technologies.  He is certainly one of the most interesting men in the world, and may well be the model for a new Marvel superhero.

Major Achievements:

  • Lifetime Achievement Award from World Sand Sculpture Association – 2003
  • 2014 – 1st prize, Key West, FL
  • 2012 – 2nd prize, Treasure Island, St. Petersburg, FL
  • 2010 – 1st prize, Treasure Island
  • 2009 – 2nd prize, Vancouver, B.C.
  • Many many additional awards over a span of more than 20 years

Sculpting Since: 1997
Location: Stinson Beach, California
When your nickname is “The Sand Guy” you’ve got to be good.  Of course, greatness doesn’t just happen overnight.  He was a fine carpenter, a cabinet maker, but he had the capacity to be even more creative.  His mission would be to carve.


In 1997 Kirk decided to quit his day job and focus on his dream.  He transferred his technical knowledge of building and began to amass critical and professional success in the world of sand carving.  Kirk specializes in recreating buildings and structures, of course, but his innovative and intricate designs and his “fantastical mechanical machines” are his trademark.  With his pedigree, it’s no surprise that The Travel Channel tabbed him to be a regular on the television series, Sand Masters and thus the “Sand Guy” has become a true “Sand Master.”


Notable Achievements:

  • “World’s Best Architecture” and 9 other World Masters awards
  • Star of Sand Masters on The Travel Channel
  • Appeared on the Today show with Jane Pauley

Website: http://www.kirkrademaker.com

Sculpting Since: 2000
Location: Rotterdam, Holland

Martijn makes art for the soul. His work is both emotional and conceptual. Over the years, he has developed a style that frequently combines figurative and abstract designs. He hopes to invoke a particular emotion with each and every sculpture he creates. For this reason, Martjin’s work has been featured in a number of countries around the world, including Spain, England, Latvia, Thailand, Australia and many more.

Before becoming a sand sculptor, Martijn studied to become an architect. His passion for design propels him to push the limits of his craft and constantly explore new structures. Martijn also uses other media such as ice, snow, and foam.

Notable Achievements:

  • 2017 – Sculptor’s Choice, North American Sandsculpture Competition, Virginia Beach
  • 2010 – Sculptor’s Choice Singles and 1stplace Doubles, World Championships, Federal Way, WA

Website: http://2shape.nl

Sculpting Since: 2007

Location: Santa Cruz, CA, USA

Morgan is a born an’ raised California girl. She likes beaches, flowers, avocados, fruit and bare feet. After dropping out of college in 2007, Morgan stumbled into sand sculpting (or it could be said that sand sculpting stumbled into her.) It began an immediate love affair, and though not always career-monogamous, sand sculpting has had her heart through the current day.

Like many of her incredibly talented peers, this profession has taken her around the world, in front of television cameras, and deep into the caverns of dream-like circumstance. She considers herself to be quite fortunate and rich in many ways. There have been medals won and articles written; but also many long days, many callouses, and many sunburns to float it all along!

As time permits, Morgan also pursues snow and ice sculpting, clothing and costume design/construction, creative writing, kitchen witchery, scrap paper doodling, street theater, global backpacking, martini-infused philosophizing and rocking out on her ukulele.

Notable accomplishments:

  • Grand prize, 2016 doubles competition, Revere Beach International Sand Sculpting Festival, Revere Beach, MA
  • People’s Choice and Sculptors’ Choice awards, 2016 Sand Art Festival, Key West, FL
  • 6 top-3 finishes in 2014 alone, including 1st place awards at Texas Sandfest, Soft Pack Championship and Sand Castle Days in Florida
  • Appeared in every episode of the Travel Channel series, Sand Masters

Sculpting Since: 2003

Location: the Netherlands

While studying biology in college, Susanne Ruseler discovered that her true passion was not in dissecting animals but in honoring them via sculpture. She used several media in her quest to represent and beautify human beings and all creatures, sculpting in snow, ice, and sand. “I really enjoy alternating between materials but sand is my first love,” says Susanne.

And so, after graduation, she started a sculpture company and has been making fantastic, albeit temporary, art ever since. Her work now takes her all over the world, to places like St. Petersburg and Madrid, Tel Aviv and South Korea, where she creates intricate works, often involving the combination of many figures to create one comprehensive scene.

Notable accomplishments:

  • Concentrated in recent years on major projects, rather than contests
  • Still has an amazing 28 top 3 awards in contests worldwide in past 10 years, including 12 1st place finishes

On the web:  

Sculpting Since: 2000
Location: Latvia

Agnese loves to sculpt!  The material is almost immaterial.  She works in permanent media like metal, fiberglass, wood, bronze and stone.  She works in temporary media like ice and snow … and of course, sand. Then there’s Styrofoam and mixed media.  You name it.

She has worked throughout Europe (Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland) and way away from home in places like Kuwait and the U.S. She loves the huge scale that can be achieved in group exhibitions, but enjoys solo and doubles competition as well.  She loves to travel around the world and introduce people to her art.

While welded metal is perhaps her favorite medium (it allows her to “turn the hardness of big objects to lightness and transparency”), Agnese has, incredibly, won numerous awards for her work in 6 different media.  She just could be one of the most versatile and talented artists on the planet!  We welcome her to San Diego and the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge.

Major Achievements:

  • 2015 — 1st place International Sand Sculpture Festival, Jelgava, Latvia
  • 2014 — 1st place, International Sand Sculpture Festival, Petrozavodsk, Russia Peoples’ Choice, International Sand Sculpture Festival, Kalmar, Sweden
  • 2013 — 1st place, Women’s Masters ‘QuickSand’ Competition, Ft. Myers, FL
  • 2011 — 1st place, 13th International Sand Sculpture Festival, Rorschach, Switzerland 1st prize, 10th International Sand Sculpture Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia
  • Many other honors dating back to her first year sculpting

Sculpting Since: 2002
Location: Rotterdam, Holland

Hanneke was drawn to sand sculpting in 2002 as a hobby outside of her day job as an interior designer. It only took a few months in the sand for a love of the craft to turn her life around. Hanneke left office work for a life of full-time artistry. Since then, Hanneke has become known for creating work that is inspired and full of life. She is driven by a dream of one day sculpting “everything she can imagine”.

Besides this, Hanneke raises three beautiful children, appears in festivals and competitions around the world, and is always looking for her next sculpting project. When sand isn’t around, Hanneke frequently sculpts with foam, concrete, and ice.

Notable Achievements:

  • 2017 – Sculptor’s Choice in Doubles, International Competition, Parksville, B.C., Canada,
  • 2015 — 2nd in Doubles, International Competition, Revere Beach, MA
  • 2013 – 4thin Team, North American Sand Sculpture Championship, Virginia Beach, VA
  • 2010 — 1st Place Doubles and Sculptor’s Choice, U.S. World Championships, Federal Way, WA

Website: http://2shape.nl

Sculpting Since:  2000
Location:  Singapore


2014 is the debut for JOOheng Tan at the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge and we are immensely proud to have him here.

Hailed as Vincent Sand Gogh by the London Daily Mail, JOOheng Tan fell in love with the art of sand sculpting in the late ‘90s.  His debut in 2000 saw him attain first prize in the International Sand Sculpting Competition in the Netherlands.  As a result of his fueling passion for sand sculpting, JOOheng’s works have been showcased in over 50 cities across more than 20 countries.

There are no signs of stopping for this sand sculptor extraordinaire as in front of him lie plenty of prizes in sand sculpting championships around the world.


Notable Achievements:

  • First prize 2013 Neptune Festival, Virginia Beach
  • First prize doubles with Brian Turnbough, 2013 World Championship of Sand Sculpting, Atlantic City
  • First prize solo, 2012 Fulong Int’l. Sand Sculpting Championship, Taipei, Taiwan
  • First prize, 2011 World Championship of Sand Sculpting, Federal Way, WA
  • First prize, 2011 World Sand Sculpting Championship, Minamisatsuma, Japan
  • First prize, 2008 World Sand Sculpting Championship, Leipzig, Germany
  • Many more

Website:  http://www.sandworkz.com

Brian Turnbough

Sculpting Since: 2001
Location: Chicago, IL

A lifelong resident of the Chicago suburbs, Brian earned a degree in painting and drawing from Eastern Illinois University. He has been sculpting sand professionally at events and festivals worldwide for over 18 years.

Brian also paints murals and custom artwork for homes and businesses around the Chicago area through his company, Walls With Imagination. He shares a home in Mokena, IL, with his wife Brooke, and two young sons, Adam and Elton. He splits his love for form and his love for color by sculpting and painting as often as possible. Sand sculpting, he says, has allowed him the privilege to compete against and work with many of the most skilled artists in the medium in the world.

Notable achievements:

  • 2016 – Place, American Championship of Sand Sculpture, Ft. Myers Beach, FL
  • 2015 – Choice, Ft. Myers Beach
  • 2013 – Place doubles with JOO Heng Tan, World Championship of Sand Sculpture, Atlantic City, NJ
  • 2011 – Place, Ft. Myers Beach

Website: www.WallsWithImagination.com

Leonardo Ugolini

Sculpting Since: 1997
Location: Italy

Born in Forli, Italy, in 1969, Leonardo was raised and educated there. Ever since childhood he has been fascinated by nature and space. Japanese cartoons showed him distant worlds of spaceships and aliens. The first book he bought was Volcanos. He spent his childhood drawing, modelling plasticine, playing with Lego and in summer making sand castles at the seaside. He attended the University of Florence.

He’s a multi-talented guy. He’s written children’s books; his first entitled I Create with Sand, published in 1997. And just 3 years ago, he published another book for the world-famous Tottori Museum in Japan. And he designed and built his own home following the dictates of bio-architecture and energy efficiency.

Architecture influences his sand sculpture as well. He specializes in building large scenic backgrounds and he’s passionate about perspective effects, reliefs and details. He’s participated in many competitions and events around the world.

Notable Achievements:

  • 2017 – Grand prize, Canadian Open, Parksville Beach, B.C.
  • 2016 – 2nd place, International Sand Sculpting Festival, Revere Beach, MA
  • 1999 – Champion nativity scene depicted on postal stamp by Italian Post Office
  • 1998 – Grand prize, World Championship of Sand Sculpture, Harrison Hot Springs, British Columbia, Canada

Facebook: Leonardo Ugolini

Sculpting Since: 2007

Location: Prince Edward Island, Canada

Abe Waterman was born and raised in idyllic Prince Edward Island, Canada. He says has been producing artwork since he was old enough to hold crayons and use each of his diapers as a fresh canvas. (Elders in the community recall that his diapers could be called other things, but not canvases.) <

He sketched and painted in his very early years, then, about 10 years ago, began to sculpt. He uses ephemeral materials like snow and sand, and only occasionally creates more permanent works in wood and stone. He has traveled from coast to coast in Canada and the U.S., competing in contests and exhibiting his art. He has won awards at numerous events, culminating in June, 2017, when he took 2nd place at the almost rained-out Hampton Beach, NH, Master Sand Sculpting Classic, just 50 miles north of Boston. His work, appropriately titled “Out of the Box,” also won him the prestigious Sculptors’ Choice Award.

We look forward to seeing what kind of out-of-the-box creation Abram will come up with at the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge!

Lucinda “Sandy Feet” Wierenga

Sculpting Since: 1987
Location: South Padre Island, TX

She has competed in Masters level competitions and worked on projects around the world for over 30 years and has earned the wonderful appellation, “Sandy Feet.” She invented the job of “sandcastle instructor,” offering lessons and team building exercises to tens of thousands on South Padre Island since 1990, and reached untold numbers more with her best-selling how-to book, Sandcastles Made Simple, Step-by-Step Instructions, Tips and Tricks . . . .

She is the co-founder and producer of Sand Castle Days, a Texas-size tradition during early October each year. The festival includes amateur and professional sand carving, a Mercado, live entertainment, kids’ water slide and bouncer and bull riding competitions. Her latest project is the South Padre Island Sand Sculpture Trail, a permanent year-round exhibition of about 30 sculptures that are maintained, repaired, added to and re-carved as needed by local artists. About 30 sculptures that are being maintained, repaired, added to and re-carved..

Website: www.sandyfeet.com

USSSC + DAE is cancelled.

It was our great honor to have produced this iconic event for 8 years.  USA Today had named it to the ‘Top 10 in the Nation’ and American Express called it ‘one of the top 20 seaside festivals in the world’.

Hundreds of millions of media impressions were registered worldwide and over 40,000 attended the festivities each year on the downtown San Diego embarcadero. 

We thank the Master Sand Artists from Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas who created magnificent sculptures from nothing more than sand and water, as well as the artists who work in other media, the entertainers, food providers, sponsors, media, staff, suppliers, volunteers and the Port of San Diego who made the event possible.

Should a title sponsor or new production company wish to bring it back to benefit local non-profits and the Southern California community at large, we will endeavor to help advise as long as we are able. 

For now, enjoy the website from years past.*

Thank you once more.

Joyce and Gordon Summer, Executive Producers

on behalf of Bruce, Tricia, Steve and the entire USSSC team.

This Website sculpted one grain at a time by Web Services Management.