Donna’s Day: Sandcastle Making Is Fun for All Ages


By Donna Erickson

Signal Contributing Writer

Life IS a beach for “Sand Suy” and grandfather Kirk Rademaker. As an internationally acclaimed sand sculptor, he is known for his innovative designs created with sand and water on exotic beaches of the world. In 1997, he quit his career in carpentry, traded in his construction boots for bare feet, and began a fulltime career enjoying the enchantment of sand, surf and art.

“A beach filled with people is an equalizer in a society that divides people,” he says. “When beachgoers of all ages and stations of life spontaneously join together to create a sandcastle, no one cares about your title, name, rank or lack thereof.”

On vacation in Santa Cruz, California, I experienced the freedom he talks about as I poked around in wet sand to my heart’s content, sharing the moment with the newfound friends around me. I discovered that castle-making isn’t just for kids with pint-size pails and scoops. All ages can reawaken their inner artist and experience joy.

As Kirk guided a seaside crowd of eager onlookers and myself through the basics of sandcastle and sand sculpting, he demonstrated his basic and doable techniques for getting started.

When you head to a sandy beach at a lake or the ocean, bring along the following along items, then let nature provide the rest.

Here’s the stuff:
— 3 five-gallon plastic buckets (available at hardware and building supply stores). Remove the base of 1 bucket so it looks like a wide tube.
— Shovel for sand and water mixture.
— Your favorite sand-sculpting tools, such as a small trowel, butter knives, spoons and scoops.

Here’s the fun:

  1. Fill one of the buckets with sea or lake water and bring it to the “construction site.”
  2. Set the bucket with base removed firmly into the sand upside down. Fill it about two-thirds full with sand, then add water to the top. Vigorously mix with your hands. Tap the outside of the bucket; the vibrations cause the wet sand to settle and harden. Repeat with more sand and water until the bucket is full and the sand feels very firm.
  3. Tap the sides of the bucket again and gently lift it upward to reveal a large silo-like sand shape. Now you have the basic building block for your castle, Mount Rushmore-esque sculpture or wacky design. When you get going, just let it expand with your imagination. The goal, according to Kirk, is that you don’t want the sand shape to look like a 5-gallon bucket any longer.
    TIP: To see the Sand Guy’s spectacular sand-sculpture photos, visit

Find more family fun at Write to Donna at [email protected]

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