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Castles of sand

A spectator watches intently as Mike Custer moistens his work to help keep it from falling apart. The Pilot/Arwyn Rice
 The builder failed to apply for the proper permits and construction is weak. It would never pass the stringent Brookings building inspections.

In fact, its survival through the weekend is dependent on the wind, tides, humidity and the possibility of vandalism.

The epic, “Lord of the Rings” style sandcastle is the creation of Mike Custer of Vancouver, Wash., who began work on the castle Monday while camping at Harris Beach State Park.

Custer is a former sandcastle contest winner, having won first prize in both individual entries and team competitions at the Sandsations sandcastle contest in Long Beach Peninsula, Wash.

By Thursday his castle and village taking shape at Harris Beach State Park drew admirers by the dozen.

Jessica Marvin and her family, who were visiting the Harris Beach while camping at Beachfront RV Park in Harbor, stopped to watch Mike Custer put the finishing touches on the third of three groupings of castles and village homes perched on the rocks.

“Ours are not like that at all,” said Marvin. “It’s way cool.”

Deanna Themins, age 9, of Medford, inspected the massive complex of towers,  houses, bridges, walkways, staircases and balconies and admitted defeat.

“I tried, it didn’t work,” Themins said.

Mike Custer uses tools to create details in his sandcastle. The Pilot/Arwyn Rice

In recent years Custer has declined to enter competitions, which, he said, have transitioned to feature non-architectural sand sculptures.

“I got the medallion, got the T-shirt, and got out,” he said. “Sand sculptures are beautiful, but sandcastles are waning,”

Custer now builds sandcastles for his own pleasure, and teaches groups of children.

Construction of the complex began on Monday. Custer found a deep well of wet sand near the building site.

“The water was oozing out of the bottom of the towers,” Custer said.

Which is perfect.

The sand at Harris Beach is a bit rough for sandcastle building, Custer said. The larger grains and bits of seashell cause the sand to fall apart faster.

Custer sprays his creation with water every few hours to keep it damp and extends its life.

“When the sand inside dries out, the entire structure collapses,” Custer said.

Custer wasn’t entirely sure his castle would still be intact when he arrived Thursday morning.

Although the wind is mostly blocked by the rock wall the castle is built upon, Custer found Monday’s towers partially collapsed due to wind damage.

The worst damage is usually due to “little boys,” Custer said.

Custer planned to complete one final, massive bridge on Thursday, wet down his creation one last time, and leave.

How long it lasts depends on the wind, tides, humidity –  and little boys.


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