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World Masters


Individual Sculptors

Helena Bangert • Melineige Beauregard • Michela Ciappini • Rusty Croft • Karen FralichJohn Gowdy •  Joris Kivits •  Sue McGrew •  Fergus Mulvany  •  Kirk Rademaker

Team Sculptors

Team ArchisandTeam I.B. Posse

Helena Bangert

Sculpting Since: 2000
Location: Netherlands
bangertAlthough 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!

Notable Achievements:

  • 1st place in Solo Speed Carving at the 2010 Internationales Sandskulpturenfestival – Rorschach, Switzerland, 2010
  • 2nd Place Solo at World Championship, Federal Way, Washington, 2010
  • 2nd Place in Doubles with Joo Heng Tan at the 2010 World Championship Sand Sculpting – Washington
  • 2nd Place Solo at the 2010 International Sand Sculpting Competition – Moscow, Russia

Melineige Beauregard

Sculpting Since: 2001
Location: Quebec, Canada
beauregardSome 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 several individual awards and in 2011 she was Grand Champion of the “Quick Sand’ competition at the World Championship of Sand Sculpting in Florida. “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 Champion of the “Quick Sand’ competition at the World Championship of Sand Sculpting in Florida
  • 1st place Solo at the 2011 Canadian Sand Sculpting Competition
  • 3rd place Solo at the International Competition of Sand Sculpting – Canada

Website: http://www.sculpturebeauregard.com/

Michela Ciappini

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Sculpting Since: 2003
Location: Italy
ciappiniMichela’s artistic ambition was simple.  She wanted to draw.  And so she did, studying at the Art Academy in Bologna.  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.  But 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.

Website: http://www.michelaciappini.com

Rusty Croft

Sculpting Since: 1997
Location: Carmel, California
croftWhen 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, only to be smitten by his bride-to-be and emigrate to Carmel, CA, where without ice, he turned to sculpting sand.  His first professional sand 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 join his friend Kirk Rademaker to form Sandguys International and memorialize their work on the Travel Channel series Sand Masters.  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:

  • Grand Prize and People’s Choice Awards, U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego, CA, 2012
  • Co-owner of Sand Guys, the preeminent 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

Karen Fralich

Sculpting Since: 1994
Location: Ontario, Canada
fralichNot many sand sculptors are “discovered.”  Even fewer are discovered at the mall. Yet that’s exactly what happened to Karen.  She had dabbled in sculpting in various media and was working at a pottery studio near Toronto, when a sand sculptor asked her to help on a small mall project.  That was 1994, and that’s all it took.   She continued to work at the pottery studio and at local restaurants as she studied the rudiments of the craft.   She entered her first international competition in 1998 and became a full-time sand sculptor in 2001.  She has travelled the globe, participating in nearly 100 masters class events and winning dozens of awards.  Today she is recognized as one of the most successful female sand sculptors in the world and the only woman ever to win the Solo World Championship.

Notable Achievements:

  • 3 Time World Champion
  • 3 Time North American Champion
  • Only woman ever to win the Solo World Championship

Website: http://www.sandqube.com

John Gowdy

Sculpting Since: 1990
Location: Jersey Boy, now living in Italy
gowdyJohn 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 Discover 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
  • Performed “Flying Colors” for Queen Elizabeth on her Diamond Jubilee

Website: http://www.jgowdy.com/

Joris Kivits

Sculpting Since: 2006
Location: Netherlands
kivitsPhotographer? 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
  • Competed in England, Belgium, Portugal, the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge in San Diego, World Championships in Washington (solo and doubles) and the Neptune Festival in Virginia Beach (doubles with Michela Ciappini)
  • Exhibited at the Sport/Fashion/Live-stile Event in Germany

Website: http://www.joriskivits.nl

Sue McGrew

Sculpting Since: High School
Location: Tacoma, Washington
mcgrewHigh 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’s now 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, there’s no doubt she’ll be a major player in competitive sand sculpting for years to come.

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
  • 1st Place at the 2012 Sand Fest in Texas
  • 2nd Place at the 2011 Windemere Classic in Washington

Website: http://www.sandissue.com

Fergus Mulvany

Sculpting Since: 1993
Location: Dublin, Ireland
mulvaneyFate 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:

  • 1st prize at the 2011 Tournament of Champions in Washington
  • 2nd Prize and Sculptors’ Choice Awards at the U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, San Diego, CA, 2012
  • 4th prize at the 2011 U.S. Championships 2011 in Florida
  • Sculptor’s Choice Award at the Solo International Championships 2011 in Moscow, Russia

Website: http://www.sandworld.co.uk/fergusmulvany.html

Kirk Rademaker

Sculpting Since: 1997
Location: Stinson Beach, California
rademakerWhen 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

Websites: http://www.kirkrademaker.comhttp://www.sandguys.com

Team: Archisand

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Founded: 1989
Located: Southern California
archisandYou either have it or you don’t and it’s obvious that team Archisand, and their founders, Greg Lebon and Rick Foster, clearly have it.  Although Archisand wasn’t officially formed until 1989, their story goes back to the beginning of the decade. It was 1981 and while disco was dying a slow death, Greg and Rick decided to enter a sand sculpture competition in their home state of Oregon, hoping to have some fun. Well, what can be more fun than winning?  Relying on their interest in art, architecture and carving, they managed to shock the field and actually won the event.  Proving this was not a case of beginner’s luck they went on to win the 1983 World Championships in British Columbia, as well as several other U.S. and international titles. But they surpassed their 80’s success with an even more impressive run in the 90’s and 2000’s, winning 7 of ten U.S. Open Sandcastle Competitions in Imperial Beach, CA.  Today, they are not only a powerhouse team in the world of competitive sand sculpting, but are also leaders in designing and building attention-getting sand sculptures for corporate events, sports venues, shopping malls and experiential marketers around the world.
Team Members:

  • Greg Lebon – Founder
  • Rick Foster – Founder
  • Ko Tanaka
  • Donnie Dewees
  • Michael Dewees
  • Ed Nagy
  • Henry Nagy
  • Joe Garcia
  • Tesuya Tanaka
  • Alex Lebon

Notable Achievements:

  • U.S. Open Master’s Champions 7 of last 10 years (2002-2011)

Team: I.B. Posse

Founded: 1984
Location: Imperial Beach, California

ib.posseThe story of I.B. Posse is one of hard work, determination and desire.  Buddies since high school, founding members Leonard Gonzales Sr. and Mike Brindle entered the 1984 U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition in their hometown with low expectations.  With their background in finish carpentry, however, it was no surprise that a hidden talent revealed itself.  For many years after that, I.B. Posse dominated the amateur ranks of sand sculpting, creating many dazzling and innovative works.  But Leonard Junior wanted to take the team to the next level.  When he became captain in 1995, he did it.

With tough competition in the Masters Class, I.B. Posse spent the next decade taking second and third place trophies.  Then, in 2005, they won Grand Prize.  They’re now firmly established as a force in sand sculpting, and are competing internationally with World Masters.

Team Members:

  • Leonard Gonzales, Jr. (Captain)
  • Leonard Gonzales, Sr. (Founder)
  • Mike Brindle (Founder)
  • Mark Durazo
  • Kenny Biggs
  • Matthew McCoy
  • Juan Zepeda
  • Ricardo Ledezma
  • Aaron French

Notable Achievements:

  • Peoples’ Choice Award, I.B. Challenge Class, U.S. Sand Sculpting Challenge, 2012
  • Grand Prize, New Zealand Sand Castle Competition, 2012
  • Grand Prize, U.S. Open Sandcastle Competition, 2011 and 2010

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.