For many, their earliest memory from a day at the beach includes building a sandcastle, moat and all. Even as adults, the novelty of creating a magical castle out of sand, seashells and driftwood is still an activity that never loses its appeal. Take a day trip to a Grays Harbor beach and build a sandcastle using these pro techniques.
The sand on both the North and South Beaches of Grays Harbor is Columbia River sand. This means that it’s not grainy or rocky, but is instead soft and fine, making it ideal for packing and building. Douglas Orr, a Grays Harbor local, master sand sculptor, and occasional sandcastle event instructor, described some of his most helpful techniques that locals and visitors alike can implement when building sandcastles.
Over the years, Orr has entered numerous sandcastle building competitions from Mexico’s Rosarito Beach all the way up the West Coast. He is also a member of Form Finders, an Olympia based master sculptor group. He was once invited to take part in the World Championships in Canada. “Although I wasn’t able to attend,” says Orr, “it was great to have been invited. I’ve traveled all over for competitions but love building with the sand that we have at our beaches.” Lucky for both Grays Harbor locals and visitors to the area, the sand that Orr builds with in the area stacks very easily and due to the area’s humid climate conditions, it doesn’t dry out like it can in other parts of the world.
For those looking to build a showstopping sandcastle, there are a few tips to keep in mind. First, before heading to one of the beaches in Grays Harbor to begin building, take a minute to plan out what you want your sandcastle to look like. Children can get involved and help with the planning process by looking up pictures online to get an idea of what structure you want to go for. Take this a step further and sketch out your design or even build it out with blocks or Legos to add to the excitement. Since sand doesn’t hold fine details well, think to build out large, simple features.
Upon arrival at the beach, set up your station near the waterline, without being too close that the tide quickly washes away your masterpiece. The firm, compact sand near the ocean line makes for a great foundation, while the nearby water source comes in handy and will lighten the burden of shuttling back and forth from a far distance.
Build a Sandcastle: Foundation
Your next step includes deciding which foundation method you want to build with. Orr’s first recommended technique is to create a volcano type of sand structure. Add water and sand into the volcano and as it begins to grow in size, carve it into the shape that you desire. The second method is to use a form. This can be anything that helps to hold the structure such as a bucket or PVC pipes.
Build a Sandcastle: Sculpting
Once a solid foundation has been assembled, it’s time to begin the fun part, sculpting. Everyday tools from around your house will become useful and make the imaginative process of building your dream castle that much better. A few tools that you can bring along include a pen or pencil for the fine detail carving; a butter knife for its flat edges to make cuts; a fork to score lines; or even a feather to smooth out the final design. Kids can also use their imagination and grab easy to clean items from home that they’d like to use to bring their vision to life.
Build a Sandcastle: Decorating
Finally, don’t forget to decorate your final piece. Seashells, rocks, driftwood, seaweed, crab shells and various other beach finds are perfect, all-natural details that will make your sandcastle stand out from the rest.
No matter your method, you’re sure to end up with a beautiful creation that will bring out everyone in your family’s creativity. Snap a photo, share it on social media and lock the memory in to be reflected on for years to come.
While visiting the beautiful beaches of Grays Harbor, consider extending your day trip and bringing the four-legged member of the family with you by staying somewhere that’s dog friendly. Then, you will have plenty of time to do some other fun Grays Harbor beach activities such as beachcombing, storm watching, or even practicing your surfing skills.