Sunday’s spectators at the DO AC Sand Sculpting World Cup on the Atlantic City beach all had to watch out for themselves. Because everywhere they stopped and looked, they seemed to be in the way of all the other people shooting pictures and video.

On a spectacular beach day, 20 artists from all around the world drew thousands of people to see what they could create from the combination of sand, water and imagination — with little apparent regard for the law of gravity.

Chris Sargenti was using a camera with a long lens and a longer stand to get pictures of the almost-finished pieces she liked on that last day of the World Cup’s singles competition. Her husband, Michael, had a point-and-shoot camera and, like almost everyone on the beach, a phone camera.

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They stopped during the sculptors’ required lunch break for a new round of pictures of “Let the Games Begin,” by Jooheng Tan, of Singapore — a sculptor a British newspaper nicknamed “Vincent Sand Gogh.”

His piece features a lion letting out his fiercest roar while a gladiator, equipped with a sword and a shield, roars right back at the beast. Tan, the artist, said that the lion’s head alone took him eight hours of work to create, or roughly one full day out of the four in the competition.

“It’s gorgeous. The detail in the mane, and the hair, it’s amazing,” said Chris Sargenti, who added that she and her husband drove to Atlantic City Saturday from Fort Lee to see the artists at work. They drove home Saturday night, but then got up Sunday and decided to head back to the beach to see the progress in their favorite pieces.

“You come down here to see something different,” her husband said. “Well, this is it. This is different. ... That money was wisely invested by the casinos.”

The sand-sculpting tournament, which offers $75,000 in prize money to the artists, is sponsored by the Atlantic City Alliance, the marketing cooperative funded by the city’s casinos. And although the World Cup singles competition ended Sunday, another new contest starts right back up Tuesday, as pairs of sculptors get together to create 10 new pieces in a team contest scheduled to run through Friday.

“We hope we’ll be back next weekend, too, for the doubles,” Chris Sargenti said, before she moved on to photograph more progress in the process.

The Ebert family had a much shorter trip to the beach at Pennsylvania Avenue, between the Steel Pier and the Landshark Bar & Grill at Resorts Casino Hotel. Mick and Karen Ebert and their grown children, Justin and Colleen, only had to drive over from Egg Harbor Township. When they got there, Karen Ebert was using two phone-based cameras to take artsy shots of her two kids posing behind Tan’s lion and gladiator sculpture.

“I’m shooting all the manes,” the mom said, meaning the lion’s along with her own children's’ rich heads of hair.

Bill and Jannet Goldsworthy, of West Pittston, Pennsylvania, were in Atlantic City for the weekend to celebrate their 35th wedding anniversary, and before they got here, they heard about the sand-sculpting contest right on the beach near their hotel, Resorts.

They walked down Friday to check it out. They liked it so much, they went back Saturday to see what the sculptors had added. They were so impressed, they had to go back Sunday before they left town to catch the almost-finished products.

“It’s amazing to see them start with a pile of sand, and what they’ve done with it,” said Jannet Goldsworthy, whose husband was telling everybody he knew that they had to get to the beach to check out the sand sculptures.

“And I’ve been putting pictures all over Facebook,” he added, holding up his trusty camera.

The sand sculptors are happy to talk to the spectators about their art, but Sunday was crunch time, especially in the afternoon, when they had just two hours after their required lunch break to put all the finishing touches on their pieces. After that, they had to drop their knives and brushes and buckets and feathers and straws and shovels and other tools and stand back and wait for the judges to decide their fates.

But John Gowdy, the director of the Sand Sculpting World Cup, said that even though the singles contest ended Sunday, the results of the judges’ votes will stay secret until the awards ceremony at 6 p.m. Friday. The artists’ creations are scheduled to stay in place and under guard at least until July 6, after the long Independence Day weekend.

Contact Martin DeAngelis:


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More than 30 years’ experience reporting and editing for newspapers and magazines in Illinois, Colorado, Texas and New Jersey and 1985 winner of the Texas Daily Newspaper Association’s John Murphy Award for copy editing.

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