Last year we were amazed at the level of talent that transformed 60-ton piles of sand into sand sculptures for the inaugural year of OC Sandfest, and this year is shaping up to be equally as awe-inspiring. We couldn’t resist a trip to the beach this week to catch up with a few of the sculptors and to catch a glimpse of the progress in their year’s masterpieces.

For those of you who aren’t familiar, OC Sandfest is open to the public all week-long as master champion sand sculptors transform our local sand into massive works of art. Their work culminates on August 27th at noon as awards are presented in various categories at North Division Street, followed by illuminations of the sand sculptures on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. All of the sand sculptures can be viewed from the beach and boardwalk from North Division Street to 3rd Street. Also available are sand sculpting classes (to be held Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9am), sand sculpting demonstrations (2pm, Saturday) and a family sand sculpting competition (Friday, 9am).

We caught up with local (and world renowned) sand sculptor George Zaiser this week as he worked alongside Larry Hudson on the OCHMRA sand sculpture. “Each pile has a sponsor,” he explained, “so we work to wet it, compact it, hand compact it, and carve. You can’t mix anything in with the sand itself,” Zaiser explained. For the most part, each sponsor pre-selects their design. For example, the OCHMRA sand sculpture features a mermaid accompanied by various sea life. Work on the sculptures began Monday morning at 8am, lasting all day until 6pm and continuing as such until Thursday. When asked what the most difficult aspect of their sculpture was, Hudson and Zaiser agreed that portrait and figurative work poses the greatest challenge. “Doing faces and trying to make them actually look like someone, that’s the most unique challenge,” said Hudson as he worked to perfect the mermaid’s face.

There are ten sculptors working this year, each well-known in their field and boasting years of experience. For example, Zaiser (who is also a local art teacher) got his start 19 years ago. Some of the other sculptors have 20, 25 or 11 years of experience under their belts. There are a few new faces this year, with several returning from last year. Zaiser is the only local competitor this year and will also be working on the OC Jeep Week sand sculpture (pictured below) that is to display at the Convention Center this week.

“It’s grown exponentially in the past ten years,” said Zaiser of their craft. “There are a lot of international folks involved now,” added Hudson. “A whole group of very talented artists.” Zaiser has worked on sand sculptors both locally and across the world, traveling to both Holland and China to work on international sand sculptures. “It was unbelievable,” he said of the 40-foot pyramid they collectively built out of 600,000 tons of sand. “It was an intense amount of work for everyone involved. Getting the measurements correct…that was the most crucial part.”

Of course a picture speaks a thousand words, and the real thing, well it speaks for itself. Take a look at the progress below as of Tuesday morning, stay tuned for more pics on our social media pages, and (even better) head to the south end the boardwalk to see the amazing pieces of artwork yourself.