Every year from Boxing Day (December 26) to ANZAC Day (approx. April 25) the Frankston Waterfront becomes home to one of the largest sand sculpting competitions in the Southern Hemisphere.

Sand sculpting has been around since as long as children liked mud.  But it was only in the late 19th century that the activity became a commercial trade, with boardwalk sculptors collecting coins for their work.  In the 1970s, sand sculpting as we know it today emerged with teams of artists creating large and detailed structures.

The story of the Frankston sand sculpting competition is that in 2000 a single sculpture was built on the Rye foreshore, which the following year developed into a competition.  In 2008, the competition was moved to Frankston, where it is known as “Sand Sculpting Australia”.  Each year, teams of artists from around the world work to create massive sculptures around a single theme.  For the 2012-2013 season, that theme was “Under the Sea”.

The sculptures can take up to two months to build, reach up to 10 meters in height and require thousands of tonnes of sand.  But the question that was on my mind when I visited the competition this year was:  How can a sand sculpture stay put for four months exposed to the outdoor elements?

Sculptors use a type of sand that is used in building the foundations of homes. It is called heavy sand and each grain of it is square, which allows the sand to stick together better.  The sculptors do what is called a “pound up”, which involves building a box that is then filled with sand and then pounded down by whacking it, jumping on it and watering it.  The idea is to compress the sand as tightly as possibly.  Water is added to help the sand set hard as it dries out.  This same process is repeated, building compressed boxes of sand on top of each other until the sculptor has the desired size sand block to begin carving into.  The sculptors use a variety of tools, ranging from cooking to dental utensils, to carve into the sand.  And once complete the sculptures are coated with a stabilizing agent.  Finally, for the four months that the exhibit is up on the Frankston Waterfront, they sculptures are touched up as necessary.  I should note, that summer here in Melbourne is the dry season.  As a result, the sculptures aren’t exposed to the types of storms one might expect.

Sand Sculpting Australia includes workshops for children to learn how to make their own sand sculptures and a small cafe where one can hide in the shade and get a cool treat.  That cafe is important, because when I went last year it was unforgivably hot.  Bring lots of water and sunscreen.  The sun in Melbourne can be brutal.

Though the trek is one hour each way by train from the CBD, it is easy to reach the Frankston sand sculptures by public transport.  They are located no more than a five minute walk from the Frankston train station.  And afterwards, you can enjoy the beach.

I can’t wait to see the theme for this upcoming year and would love to meet some of the sculptors and to see the works in progress.  Keep your fingers crossed that you will see a related post for the 2013-2014 season.

Sand Sculpting Australia
Frankston Waterfront,
Nepean Highway, Frankston
Melway reference: 100A B8

Open Boxing Day to Anzac Day.

Tickets can only be purchased with cash onsite, but cards may be used if the tickets are pre-booked or bought at the Frankston Visitor Information Centre at the Waterfront.

Prices for the 2013 to 2014 Season

Type

(A$)

Adult $12.50
Children between 3-12 $9.00
Concession $10.00
Children under 3 Free

Dogs are not permitted.

Sand Sculpting Australia (Frankston 2013)

Sand Sculpting Australia (Frankston 2013)

Sand Sculpting Australia (Frankston 2013)

Sand Sculpting Australia (Frankston 2013)

Sand Sculpting Australia (Frankston 2013)

Sand Sculpting Australia (Frankston 2013)

Sand Sculpting Australia (Frankston 2013)

Sand Sculpting Australia (Frankston 2013)

Sand Sculpting Australia (Frankston 2013)

Sand Sculpting Australia (Frankston 2013)