Sandcastles leap onto Ocean Beach

SFBay photos by Frank Leal, Juan Romero, Scot Tucker, Nadine Quitania, Ida Mojadad, Eric Peterson and Ali Thanawalla

When the government shutdown kicked sand at Leap’s 30th annual Ocean Beach sandcastle contest and delayed its earlier date, the kids of San Francisco simply came back with a bigger sandcastle.

Organizers estimated as many as 10,000 students, teachers,  helpers and observers came to a sunny Ocean Beach Saturday to watch or build the 26 sandcastles that emerged from months of planning and fundraising by its teams.

For Leap, who provides arts education programs to more than 7,000 students in the Bay Area, it’s a year-round process.

Sue Telgemeier, 5th grade teacher at Skyline Elementary School, told SFBay:

 “We were glad the event was postponed and not cancelled because the kids have put a lot of effort into this coming together. … There’s much more participation this year. This is truly a family event.”

With the help of local architects, parents, volunteers, sponsors and student masterminds beginning in the spring, teams map out a plan to build a sandcastle and raise money in time for the contest.

Francis Scott Key Elementary began in May to raise $5,000 for their team, The Sandtastics, Sam Perry of Source Planning and Construction told SFBay.

The fifth graders came up with the idea of minions with pyramids while the architects of nine companies brought the logistical designs to life. The team came together in shirts mimicking the minion costume.

Over the course of four hours, teams labored relentlessly to execute their game plans, revolving around the importance of water and teamwork.

The Sandtastics used trash bins, but others used pumps, kiddie pools, canals, or good old-fashioned bucket lines.

Some teams operated under tough-love coaching methods—4th grade Central Elementary teacher George Metropolis told SFBay:

“It’s obvious some kids have never used a shovel before.”

Metropolis then interrupted himself to scold a student for snacking too early:

“We’re working. We’re not in an eating contest.”

While sounds of the sandy battlefield — and the persistent smell of sunscreen — filled the beach, representatives from each team presented their ideas and gave status reports on the main stage.

Eli, a sixth-grader with Team Creative Arts Charter School, told the crowd about their Moby Dick masterpiece and added:

“I don’t know about you, but we’re having a whale of a time.”

Moby Dick and minion-inspired designs were popular concepts, but the Great Wall of China, dragon castles, Van Gogh, Harry Potter and San Francisco art also graced the shores of Ocean Beach.

Peter Berkowitz, Leap Board member told SFBay:

“Everyone takes ‘masterpiece’ to be their own thing. … There’s a great mix of masterpieces.”

John Yehall Chin Elementary dubbed their sandcastle ‘Piece de ResusDANCE,’ featuring Despicable Me minions dancing to an octopus DJ. Fifth-grader Julia told SFBay:

“Pretty much all the kids wanted something big and very creative. We decided to make our masterpiece octopus tentacles on a record.”

In the end, six teams won awards — down from the 28 given out last year — for their ‘Masterpieces in Sand.’

2013 judges include sand sculptors and hosts of Travel Channel’s Sand Masters, Kirk Rademaker and Rusty Croft.

Organizers told SFBay the 2013 contest raised more than $230,000 for Leap.

Best in Show Winners

Six awards were announced on Ocean Beach Saturday:

Gold: The Da Vinci Devils from Chinese Immersion School at De Avila School took home the gold medal with their Leonardo Da Vinci-themed sandcastle. The Devils were assisted by DGA Planning Architecture Interiors, Novo Construction and Sidemark.

Silver: The Sand Gogh team from Redding Elementary won silver with their sandcastle commemorating San Francisco landmarks. Sand Gogh teamed with professionals from BAR Architects, Blach Construction, KPFF Consulting Engineers and Project Frog.

Bronze: The Sea Dragons of Miraloma Elementary — guided by NBBJ, Hensel Phelps Construction and Thornton Tomasetti — won bronze for their Harry Potter-themed sandcastle.

Best T-Shirt: Ulloa Elementary School, Gensler, DPR Construction, Pivot Interiors.

Best Site Sign: George Peabody Elementary School, Butler Armsden Architects, Forde Mazzola Assoc., Strandberg Engineering, Geoffrey DeSousa Interior Design.

Best Leap Kids Participation: ArtiSANDS, McCoppin Elementary School/Garfield Elementary School, Woods Bagot Architects, Plant Construction, Holmes Culley, Martinkovic Milford Architects, the Design Partnership LLP.