Sand Sculptors Biographies

2013 International Sandsculpting Championship Sculptor Biographies

Sculptor Testimonials

"You care about the sculptors and how we view the event. That, to us, is the best thing you can do. We see that you want to make your event the best in the country and as long as we see you care, we will sing the praises of the Neptune Festival. We know how hard these events are to put on, and in many respects you definitely are the best." -- Brian Wigelsworth, Florida

"(This) is by far the best event on our national sand competition circuit.  From management, to total prize package, to hotel accommodations, to just plain fun, this event is second to none." -- John Gowdy, Italy

"My first competition as a master sand sculptor was Neptune Fest, 1987.  Since then, I have competed in well over 100 masters competitions all over the world--helped organize a few as well...Virginia Beach has continued to set the standard by which all other contests are judged." -- Lucinda Wierenga, Sandyfeet, USA

"The hospitality is fantastic, the caliber of invited international competitors amazing and the crowds are huge!  It seems to get bigger and better every year.  I truly believe that it is one of the top premier sand sculpting events in North America." -- Karen Fralich, Canada

Solo Doubles
Abram Waterman, Canada Meredith Corson & Dan Doubleday, Florida
Edith Van Wetering, Netherlands Jonathan Bouchard & Jacinthe Trudel, Canada
Pedro Mira, Portgual Dmitry Klimenko & Leonardo Ugolini, Russia & Italy
John Gowdy, Italy Martijn Rijerse & Hanneke Supply, Netherlands
JooHeng Tan, Singapore Susanne Rusler & Helena Bangert, Netherlands
Sandis Kondrats, Latvia Marielle Heessels & Stephane Robert, Netherlands & Canada
Karen Fralich, Canada Pavel Mylnikov & Bagrat Stepanian, Russia
Matt Deibert, New Jersey Sue McGrew & Chris Guinto, USA
Benjamin Probanza, Mexico Wilfred Stijger & Dan Belcher, Netherland & USA
Brian Wigelsworth, Florida Joris Kivits & Johannes Hogebrink, Portugal & Netherlands
Guy-Olivier Deveau, Canada  
Fergus Mulvany, Ireland  


Abram Waterman, Canada

Abe comes from Prince Edward Island, Canada and has been sculpting several years. According to Waterman he has a Masters in nothing, has studied very little and claims nothing that could be considered a profession. He says he was coerced into sand sculpting several years ago by his fellow Canadian professional sculptors and has been "un"successfully trying to avoid both it, and them, ever since. A character, yes....and quite talented.


Edith Van Wetering, Netherlands

Edith, a talented carver, studied architecture and urban design at Technical University Delft. She has been a sand sculptor since 1993 and has worked on massive sculptures in China, the Netherlands, and Italy. She has a special preference for fastidious and fine detail work.




Pedro Mira, Portugal

Pedro Mira studied sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts and photography at the Portuguese Institute of Photography. He began his career in the early 90s and his work has been displayed in various art exhibitions. For several years he sculpted in silver for a famous silversmith in Lisbon (Leitão & Irmão) while also working in photography, design and sculpture in other mediums. Pedro has a private studio in Alentejo, Portugal. He also sculpts in sand at major festivals and competitions around the world and has been distinguished with several awards.

John Gowdy, Italy

Gowdy aka The East Coast Cowboy has been carving professionally for 25 years. He served 27 years as a  firefighter in Atlantic City, NJ and retired as captain in 2006. Relocating to a little town in Italy known as Castelfranco, Veneto he met his Italian bride, Laura. They carve together on occasion and recently won 1st place on “Sand Wars” which aired on the Travel Channel. Gowdy plans to dedicate the rest of his life to the arts. He sculpts sand and marble, paints portraits and has a performance painting show called "Flying Colors" where he brushes and throws paint onto large spinning canvases set to music. He travels worldwide showcasing both his paintings and sculpting.

JOOHeng Tan, Singapore

Hailed as Vincent Sand Gogh by the Dailymail UK, Singapore sculptor JOOheng Tan fell in love with the art of sand sculpting in the late 90s. His debut in 2000 saw him attain First prize in the International Sand Sculpting Competition in The Netherlands. As a result of his fueling passion for sand sculpting, JOOheng’s works have been showcased in over 50 cities across more than 20 countries around the world. There are no signs of stopping for this sand sculptor extraordinaire as in front of him lies plenty of prizes in various sand sculpting championships, including the world. 

Sandis is one of very few Latvian sand and ice sculptors. Born during the Soviet Union, he began sculpting at the age of 9. After years of rigorous training in the arts and achieving his Masters Degree in Sculpture, he discovered his passion for temporary art and began his own sand and ice sculpting company in the Baltic region. Sandis travels the world working on ice, snow and sand projects throughout Europe and Asia. Although he enjoys sculpting, he has become more interested in the design, organization and creation of sand events. 


Karen Fralich, Canada

Fralich has been creating sand sculptures since 1994. She began her sculpting career at age 14 in a pottery studio in Guelph, Ontario. In 1994, a professional sand sculptor invited her to help him on a small sand sculpture in a local mall. Fralich was immediately addicted and spent the next 4 years learning the rudiments of sand sculpture while still working full time in restaurants, clothing sales and mascot costume construction. In 1998 she entered her first international contest and by 2001 she was working full time as a freelance sculptor. Her work takes her around the world. Fralich has competed in 92 master level international sand sculpture contests, is a 4 time World Champion and 4 time North American Champion and is the only woman to win the Solo Canadian World Championship.

Matt Deibert, New Jersey

Born and raised in Atlantic City and living close to the beaches, Deibert spent many days playing in the sand, a medium readily available and affordable, building sandcastles, walls, tunnels and motes. A firefighter since 1992 he was promoted to Captain in 2004. He is married and has 6 children. After the birth of his first son trips to the beach renewed his interest in sand. Enjoyment transformed into passion after studying the art and discovering Atlantic City’s history of sand sculpture. Competing since 1999, Deibert and his son captured 1st place on the 2011 Travel Channel's “Sand Wars“. Free time is usually spent with family and friends on the New Jersey shore. He also enjoys playing golf…one place he tries to stay out of the sand.

Benjamin Probanza, Mexico

Probanza’s interests are photography, especially nature themes, stop-motion films, sculpting, designing toys, music, motorcycles, new technologies and art in all forms. His championship wins and recognitions began in 1997. He has placed in contests in Spain, China, Singapore, Holland and the United States and has participated in festivals in Holland, Denmark, Belgium, Germany and Canada. He is accomplished in stop-motion short films, live shows with drawings of sand and light, and short films using these techniques. He is a member of WSSA (World Sand Sculptors Association) and won the 2003 Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award.

Brian Wigelsworth, Florida

Brian Wigelsworth

An artist from an early age Wigelsworth has worked in many mediums, from pen and ink to stained glass to paper mache. He grew up in coastal areas, always playing in the sand, creating sculptures, but it wasn’t til 2005 he discovered what a serious art form it can be. Wigelsworth, owner of an illustration studio and ad design business in Minneapolis, never realized he would return to the coast and create a new career after retirement. He was featured in a Google mini series about people who reinvent their careers later in life. “Very few art forms have such universal appeal as the ephemeral arts, especially sand sculpting. It appeals to people from ages two to ninety-two, everyone has played in the sand and can relate to it,” says Wigelsworth. “Seeing what an artist can do with sand is mindblowing.” Wigelsworth also created the just-for-fun, exciting mini competition called Quick Sand Speed Sculpting.

Guy-Olivier Deveau, Canada

Professional sand and ice sculptor from Québec, Canada. For many years, this occupation merely was a summer job meant to help finance university study in the field of philosophy. After meeting and working with professional sculptors as a helper, he refined his skills and finally was able to enter the sand sculpture World Championship in 2008 where he placed 4th. This is the event that setted him on the path he is on today, traveling the world to perform his art.


Fergus Mulvany, Ireland

"For me, sand sculpting was born out of chance. While studying fine art sculpture in Dublin in 1993, my name was picked out of a hat to participate in a sand festival in Holland. I knew nothing of this medium nor had I indulged even as a child on the beach. I seem to have been compensating since and my involvement has flourished, inevitably leading to snow and ice sculpting. Sand sculpting offers an opportunity to work on a scale, pace and format beyond the usual. It provokes free-form carving and thinking processes, a unique experience for carver and spectator alike. It has introduced me to a brilliant spectrum of talented people, enviable locations, and valuable life experiences.”


Meredith Corson & Dan Doubleday, Florida

Raised in New Bedford, MA, Meredith relocated to Florida in 1980 and started sculpting sand as a hobby.  In 1996 she met Dan Doubleday at a competition.  Today they are partners in love and business.  The own 'Sanding Ovations' based out of Treasure Island Florida.  They travel the world creating sand sculptures commercially and competitively that are both emotional and thought provoking.



Dan was discovered sculpting on a beach in Santa Cruz, CA in 1995. Six months later he was invited to an international Masters competition. He is most honored by the 29 Sculptor's Choice awards he has received over the years. "To be respected by your sculpting peers is the highest honor," says Doubleday who strives for perfection in human anatomy. His creations are often powerful emotionally. His favorite piece sculpted: "Talking to the Moon," carved from the heart.


Jonathan Bouchard & Jacinthe Trudel, Canada

By profession, Jonathan is a graphic designer and drum major.  He is also a painter and a wood, fruit and snow carver (expositions and live performing).  His favorite expression: "A coeur vaillant, rien n'est impossible". "Everything is possible for those who work and believe."




A clothes designer by profession, Jacinthe is also a natural product maker: soaps, creams, etc. She also paints and does clay sculpture. Her aspiration is "creating, creating...and living from it."  She loves working with natural elements. Jacinthe says "de fil en aiguille," meaning one thing brings you to another.




Dmitry Klimenko & Leonardo Ugolini, Russia & Italy

In 2004 Dmitry graduated from the Saint Petersburg State Academy of Art and immediately began ice carving. He entered the sand world in 2005 plunging deeper and deeper into sand carving with it's never ending possibility to grow. He won medals in Saint Petersburg and Moscow and has since carved sand in Canada, the Dominican Republic, Italy, Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Latvia, Poland, and Russia. He also works with wood and bronze.



World-renowned sand sculptor, sand art director and publisher. "Creo con LA SABBIA" ("To create with SAND") was published in 1997 for children, also a CD-book translated in English. He is author of a book entitled “The Most Beautiful Sand Miniature Buildings in the World” which has been translated in 8 languages. He began his sand sculpting title wins in 1998 and has since amassed an extensive and impressive CV in sand contests, exhibitions, sand art direction, and awards.



Martijn Rijerse & Hanneke Supply, Netherlands

Rijerse is a 2001 architecture graduate of the Technical University Delft. In 1996, Rijerse competed in sand for the first time with college friends and began competing for fun. After graduating he became a full time sculptor working in sand, ice, concrete and foam. He participates in large, and small, scale events, competitions, demonstrations and workshops. Sand sculpting has taken him to Holland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Portugal, Spain, England, Georgie, Russia, the United States, Canada, China, Japan, Israel, Thailand, and Australia.


While studying interior design Supply started sandsculpting in 2002 as a hobby. After graduating she worked in an architecture office. However, being outside and making things she liked was too tempting and when an opportunity came along to work on a project she took it. She has been sculpting at festivals, competitions and commercial jobs since. In 2003 she started ice sculpting which led to carving snow. Supply has sculpted in many countries including Holland, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Latvia, Italy, England, Israel, Spain, Portugal, Canada, the United States, Australia, Russia, Thailand, China.

Susanne Ruseler & Helena Bangert, Netherlands

Susanne has a Masters in biology and participates in sand, snow, and ice competitions worldwide.  She began sandsculpting in 2003 while studying biology and discovered she loved it.  She next began working in snow and ice.  After graduation she began sculpting in all three mediums full-time taking her to events and competitions in Europe, Australia, Russia, South Korea, the USA, and Canada.



Bangert studied at the Rietveld Art Academy in Amsterdam (the Netherlands) graduating with a major in sculpting and installation art in 1998. Using sand as a medium began in 2000 when she was invited to make a sculpture for an exhibition at a retirement home for elderly seamen in a small Dutch coastal village. Gradually sand sculpting has become one of her main activities. Bangert designs and carves sand sculptures commercially. She also sculpts snow and ice. 2011 awards: 3rd place doubles (with partner Kirk), Tournament of Champions, Federal Way, WA. And 1st place solo, Qatar Marina Festival, Doha (Qatar).
Marielle started sandsculpting in 2006, before that and after, she worked as an independent visual artist and a sculptor/ painter for amusement-parks and museums. Her inspiration comes from studying nature and to touch inner beauty through physical quality. She immediately loved sand as a material. A temporary medium providing an opportunity to work quickly on a large scale allowing her to constantly learn and grow as a sculptor. She enjoys working with wonderful people and traveling to incredible places around the world.
A self-taught artist, art has been an omnipresent in my day-to-day life under numerous shapes and forms since childhood. With time, I have made the art of sculpture my preferred and it has evolved into a way of selfexpression. Starting with wood sculpting, life opportunities have led me toward other ephemeral and unique media such as snow, ice, sand, and even chocolate. Today, I independently live from my art, as a professional carver, competing around the world with the best sculptors.

At age 12 Mylnikov won an ice competition. His sculpture, a frozen rabbit; his prize, ice cream. Both melted*. Mylnikov went on to seriously study art, working in bronze, stone and wood. Beckoned by sand and ice, he became a master sculptor and has an impressive resume of worldwide medals, including 16 world championships. He is a 1996 graduate of the Moscow Academic Art Lyceum, a 2002 graduate of the Moscow State Academic Art Institute, and is a member of Moscow Artist's Union. Mylnikov is one of the artistic creators of Moscow's indoor ice museum, largest in the world. He claim's: "Sand opened the world to me!!!"

(*excerpt from a Washington Post Staff Writer)

Stepanian, renowned sculptor of sand, snow and ice, is a 2004 graduate of the Moscow State University of Art. “I´ve been interested in sand and ice from my childhood when I played with other children and created little sand castles on the beach in summer and made snowmen during cold winters in Moscow. At first it was just my hobby, later it became the occupation of my life,” says Stepanian. His career began in 1998 and includes four international 1st and 2nd place wins in sand and another three in ice and snow. In 2011 he was part of the creative team which directed the “Great Roman Empire,” a Moscow sand project, and is an artistic director for the indoor ice museum in Moscow.

Sue McGrew & Chris Guinto, USA

McGrew is from Tacoma,WA, and is a 2008 graduate of the University of Southern California of Los Angeles with a BFA in Theatre-Stage Management, and a minor in sculpture. Her first taste of sand sculpting was while in high school and she found herself hopelessly addicted to the ephemeral arts. Her early introduction to sand sculpting makes her one of the youngest professional sand (and ice) sculptors. She appeared on Travel Channel's Reality TV show "Sandblaster III - The Extreme Sand Sculpting Competition" in 2008 and is on the Travel Channel's current reality show "Sand Masters."

A product of the 80’s horror genre, Guinto's sculpting career started at an early age with clay as his main medium. He attended school for special effects and flourished at sculpting monsters out of clay and rubber. With the discovery of sand sculpting, he preferred to carve on a beach vs. in an FX lab. In 2002, a week after his first amateur contest, Guinto competed with some of the world’s best carvers at his first master competition. He has traveled and carved throughout the world and appears on the Travel Channel's reality show "Sand Masters". Preferring the competitive side of the art, Guinto continually pushes the limits of sand by evolving its form work, thus taking sand sculpting to a whole new level.

Wilfred Stijger & Dan Belcher, Netherlands & USA

Stijger has training in sculpting and painting and has been a sculptor since 1989. He is owner of Stijgerart Productions, a 3D company opened in 2000, producing art with many types of materials, from natural to artificial. His talents include painting, animation, foam, sand and ice sculpture. He has won awards in events worldwide.



Belcher, a professional sand sculptor since 1990, says, “I am honored to have learned from many pioneers of the art form, and now have the privilege of collaborating and making friends with the best, new, talented, and amazing sand sculptors from around the world! Competitions make me a better sculptor. My competitors and teammates are my teachers. Competitively, I have won 14 World Championships, 3- Solo; 2- Doubles; and 9-Team with incredibly talented teammates! Sand sculpture is a test--it can flow like a dance, or feel like a wrestling match. It is an exhilarating, physical, and creative endeavor; a wonderful process and an awe-inspiring product; a means of calm focus, and a cause of frustration. Remember- no magic, no tricks- just effort and desire." Belcher is also a Landscape Architect and continues to work in the Architecture/Engineering field. He enjoys brewing beer and the company of good friends.

Joris Kivits & Johannes Hogebrink, Portugal and Netherlands

Photographer? Graphicdesigner? Art director? Illustrator? Sculptor? Like most sandsculptors, Kivits is…first and foremost…an artist. Whatever the medium, whateverthe project, he believes that beauty should shine through. This mentality has guided his career in movies and television, in commercials and music videos, and has carried over into his work with sand. Although Kivits has only been sculpting sand since 2006, he's had several notable competition achievements throughout the world. Recently, Kivits became involved in sculpting marble, which, he admits, is a very different medium: “This will be around for a while,” he says. “But sand is like live theater…you enjoy it while it’s happening and it only lives in your heart and mind.”

Born in Amsterdam, 1976, Johannes has been drawing all his life. Gradually the love of creating beautiful imagery urged him to indulge photography, film making, animation and sand sculpting. Thus living as a self-supporting artist for years, he decided to study documentary directing at the Dutch Film Academy. Finishing in 2010 with a hypnotically visual film, he picked up his old crafts of sculpting and illustrating to sustain his dreams of more amazing visions to come. He injects every sandsculpture with all his passion, because he believes "spreading happiness, by doing something you really enjoy, is the essence of life's meaning."