Sand sculptors pay homage to Cadboro Bay creature

Some of the world's best will put their skills to the test at Cadboro Bay Festival

Sculptor Fred Dobbs

Sculptor Fred Dobbs

For professional sand sculptors like Fred Dobbs, the regular stuff at the beach squishing under your sandals simply doesn’t do.

The Saanich resident is part of a seasoned team of sand sculptors taking part in this year’s sand sculpture competition at the Cadboro Bay Summer Festival.

His team is bringing in 40 tons of specialized sand in four slinger trucks for the team’s sculpture, which will measure up to 10 feet tall.

“Beach sand tends to get washed out,” said Dobbs during a break from his work as a sculptor at South Island Bronze Foundry.  The sand Hobbs uses contains a trace amount of silt and has finer grains, which help it bind together.

“It sets like a hard cookie, like biscotti,” he explained. “That way it makes something that will last a couple of weeks.”

After tossing around several ideas for the theme for this year’s sculpture, the team settled on a pirate theme, with an octopus centrepiece.

“I remember going to see the octopus at Gyro Park when I was a kid and checking out the different layers of paint over the years,” he recalled. “It’s quite iconic, so we’re paying homage to that.”

Dobbs, the team’s leader and artistic director, felt it would be even more fitting since the octopus had to be moved last year to prevent it from slowly sinking any deeper in its original location.

“You want to have your finger on the pulse of the community,” he explained. “It’s a family event so you want have things that will appeal to everyone from tiny toddlers to seniors walking by,”

Dobbs, in his fifth year showing off his craft at the Cadboro Bay Summer Festival, said sculptors run the gamut from “weekend warriors” to  those considered elite.

Dobbs and his team, which includes Damon Langlois and Andrew Biggs, have established quite a reputation for the work they do. Dobbs and Langlois have won several championships on different teams at the prestigious Harrison Hot Springs competition. Both compete in individual events as well, with Langlois finishing second and Hobbs third on July 17 at the Parksville competition, a qualifier for the world championships.

“Damon has also won a solo championship,” Hobbs said. “He’s quite special. There may be only 200 in the world of his calibre.”

The team will begin by getting most of the messy work completed two days before the event.

They start by compacting the sand into wooden boxes, similar to the way you would work with concrete forms. The boxes are stacked on top of each other, working from larger to smaller. Then the team strips away the wood and  begin carving the wet, hard-packed sand. The day before the event involves most of the carving, working from the top to the bottom.

“About 80 per cent of the work is completed the day before so we’re doing the final touches on Sunday,” said Dobbs, president of the Vancouver Island Sculptors Guild. “Sand sculpting is considered a performing art because there are people who like to watch the process rather than just see the final product.”

The free event takes place Sunday, Aug. 7 at Gyro Park from 11 a.m until 3 p.m.