Having a blast on Ocean Beach at Leap’s Sand Castle Contest

With the open-ended theme of “Sand Blast” as their guiding premise, 23 teams of students, architects, engineers and contractors built sand castles on Ocean Beach Saturday as a part of the 28th annual Leap Sand Castle Contest.

The diverse designs ranged from Angry Birds to dinosaurs, but one thing was clear and consistent: One of Ocean Beach’s most popular events was another huge success this year.

“What’s not to like about this event?” asked David McAdams, the chairman of Leap, the organizing non-profit behind the sand castle contest. “It’s a great event for the industry and an incredibly community-building event.”

The “Sand Blast” theme left teams open to widely different interpretations, which Kyle Brunel, a board member for Leap and master of ceremonies for the event, encouraged.

“People are out here working with sand and being creative, and that’s what we like to see,” he said.

While some teams stuck to more traditional concepts such as blasting volcanoes, others  rallied behind childlike, unrestrained creativity at its finest. One team built a planet made of Swiss cheese, which was being sucked into a black hole, and a small cheese rocket was blasting away from the disappearing planet. Another had a rocket-castle hybrid, which had crashed on earth and cracked in half. Spilling out were cute aliens whose smiling faces made it clear that they were — wait for it — having a blast.

The event is one of the primary fundraisers for Leap, a program that brings artists into classrooms through San Francisco public schools.

“Without this fundraiser, Leap would be in big trouble,” said Julie McDonald, Leap executive  director.

Participating firms raise funds for Leap as a part of their entry into the contest, and spend weeks working with a neighboring school to design a model for the sand castle. The organizers arrive at around 6:30 a.m., and from there, McDonald said, “It’s real chaos from 7 to 10 as everyone checks in, gets their shirts and gets ready to build.”

From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., the focus is all on the castles. For most of that time, however, the creations are amorphous lumps of sand. It is in the waning minutes of the contest that the designs really come to life.

A panel of judges observes the whole process, looking for the amount of kid participation and overall sense of teamwork in addition to the strength of the design. Grant Washburn, an Ocean Beach resident and renowned big-wave surfer, returned to act as a judge for the second year in a row.

“I had so much fun last year, and I just had to come back again this year,” Washburn explained.

“And this year, I brought my sand castle consultant with me,” he said, pointing to his young daughter.

Tyra Fennell, a first-time judge who works for the San Francisco Arts Commission, commented on how the teams of adults and kids were working together.

“These are huge undertakings, with so many details to figure out. I’m really impressed with what I’m seeing so far,” said Fennell.

The community sand castle is always a favorite. This year, the group of neighborhood sand enthusiasts built a giant sea turtle.

As the judges made their rounds, Fennell joked about one of the toughest parts of the job:

“The hardest thing is to turn down the cupcakes and sand tributes and all the other ways that these teams hope to catch our favor,” she laughed. “But we will not be unjustly swayed.”

It was a lively morning at the beach. The Blue Angels rumbled behind the fog up above, surfers played in the waves, and in the sand at Kelly’s Cove it was a great day to celebrate creativity and sand castles.

All photos: Jon Weiand / Ocean Beach Bulletin

Tagged as: , , ,


  1. The coverage of the event is cool and good to bring more attention to LEAP.

    Everyone I spoke to from Peralta (my son’s team) had a fantastic time at the beach.

    Two quibbles here:

    1) The caption from Peralta suggested that their award was “too small”. Really? The “Most Original Interpretation of Theme”? Why belittle that?

    2) Why are you posting images up to 3600 pixels wide? That’s way to big for 99.99% of the monitors out there. The modal windows do not




  1. Photos: Ocean Beach Leap Sandcastle Contest | KQED News Fix
  2. Time lapse video shows Ocean Beach sand castle contest | The Ocean Beach Bulletin

Leave a Response

Please note: comment moderation is enabled and may delay your comment. There is no need to resubmit your comment.