Sand gets transformed into spectacles on Hampton Beach during sculpting competition

A sculptor worked to chisel a man out of sand on Hampton Beach.
A sculptor worked to chisel a man out of sand on Hampton Beach.Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Classic

Picture this on a beach: a bird starting to take flight, a muscular man standing still, and the sun parting the clouds. This could be considered a typical scene, except they’re all made out of sand.

Now in its 19th year, the annual Hampton Beach Master Sand Sculpting Classic officially began Thursday. About 240 tons of sand were imported to the New Hampshire beach for this year’s competition, according to organizer Greg Grady.

With 12 tons of sand each and about 30 hours to get the job done, 10 sculptors are vying this year for about $15,000 in various prizes. Some of them come from as far as Canada to get the cash — and bragging rights — that come with winning.


“I have a waiting list,” Grady said in a telephone interview from the beach Friday morning, with the sound of wind whipping in the background. “I know people from all over the world who want to come to this event.”

Grady personally picks and invites each competitor. Every sculptor has two years to try to place in the competition, and if they don’t, they’re not invited back, he said.

The competition gets so fierce that Grady said he had already started to plan for the 20th iteration of the event next year, with more international competitors already lined up.

“It always amazes me with what they come up with every year,” Grady said. “They don’t do cookie cutter things every year. I don’t like seeing the same thing over and over.”

Even as rain poured down Thursday and crowds thinned out, the competitors persevered, Grady said.

Rain can help the sculptors, he said, but Thursday’s did give sculptors a little trouble and they were granted extra time Friday and Saturday to make up for it.

Around 11 a.m. Friday, Grady said that crowds were starting to “get really big right now,” despite rainy conditions. “Tomorrow should be crazy,” he said.


The judges will arrive at 2 p.m. Saturday. Onlookers who want to have their own say can name their favorite pieces as part of the People’s Choice Award, voting from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday.

The winners of all the prizes will be announced later Saturday, followed by a special fireworks show.

And if you’re not able to catch the sand spectacles Saturday, they’ll still be standing on the beach until June 27, Grady said.

Breanne Kovatch can be reached at breanne.kovatch@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @breannekovatch.