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COAST, CENTRAL, AND NORTHWEST CITIES : SEAL BEACH

Sand Blast

Sculptors are creating a 21-foot castle with a scary flavor just north of the pier for beach festival.

September 08, 2000|ALEX MURASHKO | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

What's more than 21 feet tall, weighs about 400 tons and strives to be scary?

The answer: Tink's Med-evil Castle, the centerpiece of Saturday's Sandcastle Festival, which is expected to draw 30,000 onlookers to the beach just north of the pier.

The castle won't be finished until sometime around sunset today, but it's been taking on monstrous proportions since early Tuesday morning, when bulldozers began shifting sand from a nearby berm to the site close to the pier and beach parking lot.

Professional sand sculptor Kent Trollen and a crew of five sculptors and six to eight helpers, including Marine Corps volunteers, have been working since 6 a.m. Tuesday, ending every day shortly before dark.

Trollen, who heads Newport Beach-based Sandcastles Unlimited, has been orchestrating the crew in a creative, impromptu process that does not rely on drawings or even definite plans.

"Everybody up there has a license to create," said Trollen of his crew atop the developing structure as they wet, packed and sculpted sand. "We just go for it. It's not a science."

A co-worker's preliminary sketches of gargoyles and other evil-looking characters intended to be a part of the motif were presented to Trollen the day after the castle itself started taking shape. These drawings "are just a flavor we are going for," Trollen said. "This [sandcastle] is not intended to be normal. We hope to have a scary twist to it."

Trollen said two of the towers collapsed during construction Wednesday. Workers fretted, but he had no worries.

"Sand has its own mind," he said. "I just keep everyone going. This is about scale, proportion and drama."

Trollen and company have built sand sculptures for promotional events and clients around the U.S., including inside malls and at beaches with varying conditions. But the sand at Seal Beach, he said, is unparalleled.

Sand pushed out by the San Gabriel River is deposited offshore, brought in by currents and blown onto the beach by steady winds. The condition creates a fine sand perfect for creating masterpieces, Trollen said.

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"From Vancouver to Ensenada, this is the best sand," he said. "We can make this sand dance like no other sand."

Trollen, who calls his work "hard but fun," said he is motivated to create a stunning centerpiece for the festival--hosted by the Chamber of Commerce and Business Assn.--because he likes the event's aim of getting more community involvement in ocean and beach cleanup.

The chamber is "trying to do something that we feel very strongly about," he said. "Another motivator is that we've been given license to make this thing evil-like . . . but not distasteful."

The festival--complete with sandcastle judging, surfing competition and art exhibit--runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Entries can be viewed until 5 p.m. Sunday.

Alex Murashko may be reached at (714) 966-5974.

FO Workers from Sandcastles Unlimited began crafting their mega-creation Tuesday and will finish today.

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