CANNON BEACH — In its 53-year existence, those who participate in the Cannon Beach Sandcastle Contest have come to expect that the day’s grandiose sand sculptures will be erased by the elements by the next morning’s break.
While there is nothing to be done to control the Pacific Ocean’s tide, event organizers are trying to preserve more of what they can of these creations.
“Every year we are so exhausted that no one wants to watch the sculptures,” event organizer Debbie Nelson said. “But we want to save them from kids jumping on them and vandals so people can enjoy them longer. So we got a guard to protect them overnight.”
The Sandcastle Contest began in 1964 as a way to boost spirits after a tsunami. Today it attracts on average 15,000 people.
For one day every year, the beach becomes a place where visitors of all ages can build sand sculptures, cheer on teams of children and teens, and participate in a parade, live music and a 5-kilometer fun run.
Kyler Vetter will serve as the guard to fend off those inclined to turn sandcastles into a sand mound. He will be helped by his father, City Councilor George Vetter.
“I’ve been advocating for this for years,” George Vetter said. “Why let others destroy what took so long to build?”
This year, the two will have about 30 plots to look over — a 20 plot decrease from last year. Nelson said she contributes the decline to Pacific Northwest schools getting out later due to an unusual number of snow days taken this winter, making the Sandcastle Contest compete with graduation ceremonies.
While this year’s contest was a little calmer than some previous years, team building enthusiasm was anything but diminished.
For Master Class competitor David Lond, nothing was going keep him from building — even the accident which gave him a concussion and stitches a week prior.
“I got sideswiped while on my bike,” Lond said. “I was going to do this unless my doctors said I couldn’t.”
His enthusiasm for sandcastle building started when he was young.
“I found a photo of me digging up sand when I was 1½ years old,” Lond said. “Since, I think I’ve gotten better. How much better I suppose is questionable.”
Decades later, sandcastle building has become a family affair. The team he is on, Moonstone, is named after the beach him and his sister frequent in California. The team spans from members as old as 82 to as young as 11.
Years of playing on the beach helped Lond hone his skills that enable him to make a giant sand octopus.
“What’s most important in sandcastle building: a shovel and two buckets. One for water, one for sand,” he said. “Everything else is just toys.”
While the team still treats sandcastle building as more casual, family fun, the techniques and skills they collectively contribute are sophisticated. Throughout the day children and adults crowded around his corner of the plot, where he would simultaneously build his sculpture and explain his techniques as he did it.
Sometimes he would take a break from building to show how builders make designs in the sand with thick kneads and drinking straws.
“We’ll always try to teach someone,” Lond said. “(Sandcastle building) is clean, innocent fun. It’s a cheap thrill.”
Moonstone Sandcastle Club has competed in Cannon Beach for many years, Lond’s mother Kate Zublim said, and so far has won every place at some point except for first. This year, the team’s design “Sea Circus” did not place in the top four. The team Form Finders took first for their creation “Reverse Safari.”
“We’re just happy to be here,” Zublim said.