Bruce Phillips is a full-time sand sculptor, but that doesn’t mean he gets to play in the sand on the beach all day.
The San Diego native says most people don’t realize the hours and hard work that go into a sculpture. Tuesday, Nov. 21, he spent eight hours shoveling sand in order to carve it away.
“It’s a labor of love,” he said. “I can’t think of anything other I’d want to do.”
Phillips was one of 24 competitors in this year’s 31st Annual Sand Sculpting Championship, held as always on the beach outside of the Wyndham Garden Resort.
Kevin Rooney, one of the event managers, said the weather and the crowds have both been kind for this year’s event. From his and other volunteers’ conversations, they’ve learned that the sandsculpting event has become a family tradition for some to start the holidays and see together. This year, Rooney and his team focused heavily on interaction with visitors and potential visitors on social media, posting live videos and commissioning a special event Snapchat filter for people to use while attending.
“We wanted to show southwest Florida is back, things are great,” he said. “The championship really showcases Fort Myers Beach and has become a signature event for Lee County.”
Bill and Marianne Knight, owners of the Sand Lovers, returned again this year to help manage the event. It’s their 6th year on Fort Myers Beach, but they’ve been managing sand sculpting events, from festivals to corporate commissions, for 24 years.
Marianne Knight said there’s always trends in the artwork every year. This year, she said she’s noticed a lot of structural style, with a focus on smooth surfaces and clean lines.
“But, they’re all unique, and they all have their own style,” she said.
For Phillips, it’s his third year at this event, but his 25th year as a sand sculptor. The former auto mechanic said his old job’s skills help him in his new creative endeavor.
“You have to have that three dimensional eye, and have to visualize what you’d going to do first,” he said.
Becoming a sand sculptor helped him achieve another lifelong dream: traveling. He’s been to almost every continent to compete. But, he said the sand on Fort Myers Beach was special.
“That sugar white is hard to get over,” he said.