2023 Sand Sculptors

Meet the Artists

With a world-class venue, 32 of the world’s most talented sculptors, and an exciting prize purse, Neptune’s International Sandsculpting Championship has distinguished itself as a premier event unlike any other. Meet the sculptors that will be joining us for the 2023 Championship below!

Blue Double Wave (Short)

Solo Competitors

Blue Double Wave (Short)
Borecki Wiaczeslaw

Wiaczeslaw Borecki


Slava is a freelance sculptor with over 30 years experience. After graduating, he worked in the Sculpture Department at the Academy of Fine Arts in Poznan. Since 1996, Slava has participated at multiple sand, snow and ice sculpture festivals and competitions all over the world. Slava also works with bronze and stone and his work has been shown in individual and collective exhibitions across Europe.

Jihoon Choi

Jihoon Choi

South Korea

Jihoon entered sand sculpture as a demonstration of a sand toy for children called Delta Sand, and challenged sand sculptors on the beach to create bigger works. He has been planning the event for 15 years as a producer of the Haeundae Sand Festival in Korea. He prefers to create grand and delicate sand works with themes that can be sympathized with the public. He wants to be a writer who currently attends a competition in USA sand sculpture and communicates with writers from various countries.

Matt Deibert

Matt Deibert


Matt was born in Atlantic City, NJ. He is a retired Fire Captain with the ACFD. He is married with 6 children and 5 grandchildren. Matt started carving sand in 1999 after seeing pictures of John Gowdy’s sand art. Deibert and Gowdy have since competed and worked together on many projects. Now, Matt competes and works with his three sons. He and oldest son, Ian, competed on the TV show Sand Wars and won! Competing in sand contests is one of his favorite aspects of the art of sculpting sand. Some of his honors were winning People’s Choice at the World Championship in 2001 and 1st place World Championship Doubles in 2002. Matt has competed in Virginia Beach since 2001. Winner of doubles in 2003, and has placed 2nd, 3rd and 4th over the years, in addition to a few People’s Choice and Neptune’s Choice awards.

This is truly one of his favorite contests. Matthew holds a BA with a graphic design emphasis from Mercyhurst University. Inspired by his youngest son, Liam, this past spring Matt is attending Stockton University to continue his study in the arts. Father and son were in a sculpture class together. Sandcreation LLC is owned and operated by Matt. Follow him on SandcreationNJ, or Sandcreation on Facebook.

Karen Fralich

Karen Fralich


Karen has competed in Neptune’s International Sandsculpting Championship more than 22 times, and her first time competing here was 1998! To date, Karen has competed in over 150 Masters International sand sculpting competitions. She has won many medals, including 30 First Place Titles and 5 World Championship titles. Karen has been creating sand sculptures for 29 years, her favorite things to carve are fantasy, animals, and anything cute! With no formal art training, her passion, curiosity, and many incredible mentors lead her to embrace this unusual occupation. Sand sculpting has been her full-time career for 22 years. Her work takes her around the world, collaborating with friends, festivals, and companies in 11 countries, so far…

Maxim Gazendam

Maxim Gazendam

The Netherlands

The Dutch artist, Maxim Gazendam, was born in 1981 in The Hague (NL) and studied Architecture at the Delft University of Technology. During his studies he accidentally came into contact with sand sculpture. An afternoon of building sand sculptures for adults (a team building workshop) laid the foundation for his career in the field. Simultaneously with his studies, Maxim developed his qualities in sculpture and design. In the meantime, he gave workshops to more than 10K people. Slowly but surely, he received assignments worldwide for professional sand sculptures, sometimes a logistical puzzle with his teaching programs and studies. After graduating in 2005, he was awarded the title of Master of Science of Architecture and decided to continue as a full time sand artist and started his one-man business named Puremaxim, carving sculptures with an architectural touch. His designs now include a wide range of themes always characterized by his clean lines. In addition to creating sculptures and winning many international prizes, he has developed the skills to setup, supervise and carry out complete exhibitions and events. Follow him on Facebook and Instagram @puremaxim.

Sculptor Headshot John Gowdy

John Gowdy


John is a retired fire fighter, having worked 27 years in the Fire Department of Atlantic City. He earned the rank of Captain and was placed in charge of the rescue and special operations teams of the city. He worked for 7 years as a beach lifeguard in Atlantic City and attended Stockton University for physics and fine arts. John has competed at the Neptune Festival for close to 30 years! He has won the event 4 times and has placed many more than that. John considers Virginia Beach his second home. He will be teaching “The Art Of Sand Sculpture” at the Neptune Festival free sand clinics during Boardwalk Weekend. “The Neptune Festival puts out the red carpet for some of the most talented sand sculptors on our planet every year. This event is one that surpasses all others. Long live the king!”

Karlis Ile

Karlis Ile


Karlis Ile became a professional sculptor from Latvia in 1995. He works with various materials; bronzes steel, granite, wood, and recently ice, snow and sand, because he “likes how the primeval force of these natural materials along with the magic of the moment makes energy vibrate.” Karlis graduated from the Art Academy of Latvia and holds a master’s degree in art and humanities. He also completed a figural sculpture Master workshop. He holds numerous gold medals from international festivals in many countries, Russia, Switzerland, Finland, China, Japan, Lithuania, the USA, Canada, Germany and his home country of Latvia.

Pedro Mira

Pedro Mira


Pedro Mira was born in Lisbon in 1970, where he studied sculpture at the Faculty of Fine Arts and photography at the Portuguese Institute of Photography. He began his career in the early 1990s and has exhibited his work at various art exhibitions since then. For several years, he worked as a silver sculptor for a well-known silversmith in Lisbon while also pursuing his interests in photography, design, and sculpture in other mediums. In addition to creating his own work, Pedro Mira collaborated with other artists, sculpting and developing molds using various techniques.

Since 2006, Pedro Mira has been sculpting in sand and ice at major festivals and competitions around the world, and he has received several awards for his work. For the past four years, in addition to sand sculpture, he has been creating design and furniture woodwork.

Fergus Mulvany

Fergus Mulvany


Fergus started sand sculpting by chance in 1993 while studying sculpture in Dublin. Since then, the medium and culture of sand has exploded into a worldwide phenomenon and has carried him on its ever-widening path from Europe to Australia and Asia to North America. Along the way, he has picked up awards such as 1st, 2nd and 4x Sculptors’ Choice in the Moscow International Sand Championships and 1st in the 2012 Toronto CNE International Sand Masters. In the San Diego US Sand Sculpting Challenge, he received 2nd and Sculptors’ Choice in 2012 and 2nd again in 2016. He also placed 1st in the 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019 European Championships in Zandvoort, Holland.

Andrius Petkus

Andrius Petkus


Petkus holds BA and MA degrees in sculpture from Vilnius Academy of Arts. He has had a few personal exhibitions. Petkus has also organized many international sculpture symposiums and festivals in Lithuania (stone, wood, steel welding, pumpkin carving, fire sculptures and concrete). A winner of competitions in Lithuania, Latvia, Russia, Italy, Finland, China, Australia, and the USA. He has participated in art events all around the world. As he says – “I am just an artist. Still learning the sand…”

Morgan Rudluff

Morgan Rudluff


Morgan Rudluff is a beach-loving California girl who stumbled into sand sculpting in 2007. By 2011, after stretch of hard work and growth, she was traveling full time, appearing on TV, professionally competing, and living that good life. In 2018, Morgan made the complicated choice to focus on a new career. She now works full-time as a massage therapist splitting her time between her private practice in Oakland, CA and as an Instructor of massage therapy at the San Francisco School of Massage & Bodywork. Morgan is (obviously) still sand sculpting, but just part-time now. She considers all her years as a sand sculptor to have been instrumental in how she approaches bodywork: “Both of my careers have been equal parts art, design, science, composition, education, adaptability, attention to detail, creativity, intuition, and absolute love for what I am doing. Plus, I usually get to work barefoot doing both!”

Morgan spends her free time taking improv classes, gardening, and going to see live music. She’s a proud dog-mom to an 8.5 lb Chiweeni named “Quincy”. Though Quincy also loves the beach and digging in the sand, he has yet to take after his mother and turn it into a career.

Peter Vogelaar

Peter Vogelaar


An artist for most of his life, Peter was introduced to sand sculpting in 2002. He immediately fell in love with the medium and the wonderful group of international artists who create sand sculptures all over the world. Together with his work in snow and ice, sand has allowed him to make a living these past 20 years. Along the way, he landed a couple of World Championships, the North American Championship and 6 Canadian Opens. He enjoys creating pieces which engage the viewer’s emotions. Cheery most of the time, he finds himself welcomed at events all over. Sand sculpting still feels magical to him…enjoy.

Blue Double Wave (Short)

Doubles Competitors

Blue Double Wave (Short)
Ferenc Monostori
Zsuzsanna Geck

Ferenc Monostori & Zsuzsanna Geck


Ferenc Monostori, Hungary
Ferenc was born the 5th of February 1978 in Budapest. After high school, he studied stone carving for 2 years. In 2002, he went to Portugal to make stone sculptures and there, in 2003 he participated in his first sand sculpture festival. Since then, he has made sand sculptures all around the world: Australia, China, Qatar, Turkey, Chile…and all around Europe. At home, he makes bronze and concrete sculptures. He is the father of 4 sons 🙂

Zsuzsanna Geck, Hungary
Zsuzsanna was born in Budapest, 06.06.1979. She is a teacher in a Steiner school, which is based on arts. She studied wood carving and modeling in clay in college. “I really like visual art!”

Sue McGrew
Benoit Dutherage2

Sue McGrew & Benoit Dutherage

USA & France

Sue McGrew, USA
Exploding onto the professional sand sculpting scene in 2008, Sue McGrew has enjoyed a meteoric rise to international prominence. More than a decade later, she’s traveled the world to over 60 competitions and dozens of festivals in over 30 countries. Her flowing organic style and expressive figures have won numerous awards in sand, snow and ice. Sue competed in season one of CBC’s reality TV competition “Race Against the Tide” and co-starred on Travel Channel’s TV show “Sand Masters”. Sue hails from Seattle, Washington. An artist since birth, her childhood was spent doodling in sketch books, folding origami and twisting wire to create paper mache figurines. Sue first started sand sculpting at the tender age of 3 in her back yard sandbox, and while she always kept her love of digging moats, nothing would prepare her for her first professional gig in Zeebrugge, Belgium…18 and in love, she found herself enamored by the romantically impermanent medium of sand sculpture. Sue studied Theatrical Stage Management at the University of Southern California but after graduation, she chose to follow her passion for sand and love of sun – traveling the world as a professional sand sculptor.

Benoit Dutherage, France
Benoit is a sand, ice, and snow sculptor. “Each thing around us, every moments we spend are temporary, but, we’ll keep an unforgettable souvenir of their beauty”

In 2000, he was a Chef at Raffles Hotel in Singapore, Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach, and Vistabella Hotel in Spain…UNTIL, he was introduced to sand sculpture at an event. Life changed for him, and suddenly, he had to be a SANDCARVER. Then, he got hired on the event as staff, welcoming visitors, technical, animating sand lessons for kids…. 2002 was his first summer of sand sculpture. From 2002 to 2023, Benoit has participated in and won many competitions while traveling the world.

Marielle Heessels
Leonardo Ugolini

Marielle Heessels & Leonardo Ugolini

The Netherlands & Italy

Marielle Heessels, The Netherlands
Marielle Heessels began her artistic voyage at 15, exploring the realms of model drawing and painting. As her creative prowess blossomed, she ventured into museums and amusement parks, sculpting and painting masterpieces that mirrored the wonders of nature. In 2006, a serendipitous encounter with sand sculpture transformed her path. The ephemeral and fast-paced nature of sand became her perfect medium, allowing her to work on a grand scale. She garnered numerous accolades, including the World Championship, and her sand art now graces exhibitions worldwide, offering a unique opportunity to collaborate with talented colleagues and immerse herself in diverse cultures. Marielle’s art captures the delicate harmony between humanity and the natural world, inviting viewers to pause and appreciate fleeting beauty. Her transformative journey continues, leaving an indelible mark on the sands of time.

Leonardo Ugolini, Italy
Born, raised and educated in Forli, Italy (1969), Leonardo has always been fascinated by nature and space. Japanese cartoons showed him distant worlds of spaceships and aliens. He spent his childhood drawing, modeling plasticine, playing with Legos and making sand castles. He attended the University of Architecture in Florence. He has written books and designed and built his home following dictates of bio-architecture and energy efficiency. He is currently involved in creating a card game and book for children. For 30 years Leonardo has been mastering the art of sand sculpture and organizing sand events. He has done interviews with international news stations for huge names and brands in the industry from the Olympic Games to Disney Channel. During the COVID-19 lockdown Leonardo utilized social media. In May of 2020, he joined TikTok. One of Leonardo’s video’s blew up overnight with 14.4 million views, 1.8 million likes, 4906 comments and over 25.000 followers. Leonardo is now TikTok famous for sharing insane sand sculptures and creating entry-level sand sculpting tutorials with a comedy skit at the end. He is open to any form of collaboration as long as sand is involved!

Andrij Vazhynskyj
Artem Samoylov

Andrij Vazhynskyj & Artem Samoylov


Andrij Vazhynskyj, Ukraine
Andrij is from the city of Kharkiv in Ukraine. He has loved sculpture since childhood. He could not imagine that he would travel around different countries and communicate with sculptors from all over the world, and now, thanks to sand and ice sculpture, all of this has become a reality.

Artem Samoylov, Ukraine
Artem was born in 1975. From 1991-1996, he attended the Kharkov State Art School, Department of Sculpture. From 1996-2001, he studied at Kharkov Industrial Art Institute, Department of Sculpture. Artem has participated in numerous art exhibitions and symposiums on stone and wooden sculpture. He started sand, ice, and snow sculpting in 2004 and still works with various stone, bronze and wood.

Donatus Mockus
Inese Valtere

Donatus Mockus & Inese Valtere


Donatus Mockus, Latvia
Donatus is a professional master degree sculptor, working in all kind of materials, one of which is sand. His more than 10 years sand carving experience has taken him all around the world, which has given him the chance to show his talent and meet lots of other talented artists. In 2022, he won 1st place in the Neptune Festival International Sandsculpting Championship and Gold in the Rorschach Sand Carving Championship in Switzerland.

Inese Valtere, Latvia
Inese is a professional sculptor with more than 10 years experience in sand carving; however, she works in all kinds of sculpting materials – such as wood, foam, concrete, and bronze casting. She has won a lot of 1st place awards in sand carving competitions, and was honored to win 1st place in the Neptune Festival International Sandsculpting Championship in 2022.

Thomas Koet
Martijn Rijerse

Thomas Koet & Martijn Rijerse

USA & The Netherlands

Thomas Koet, USA
Thomas Koet is a resident of Satellite Beach, Florida. Thomas had never expected to work in the sandbox for a living but has always felt an urge to do something artistic, creative and technical like architecture or engineering. Soon after Thomas received his Master’s degree in Industrial Design Engineering in the Netherlands, a friend introduced him to sculpting sand. Immediately he was drawn to the medium and has since been a designer and sculptor for some of Europe’s and North America’s largest sand sculpting events. Thomas’ artistic goal is to make extraordinary sculptures with the highest quality possible. His ability and talent have taken him all over America and Europe as well as to China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia, Qatar and Canada. A fierce competitor, Thomas has won many first place, sculptor’s choice and other titles in contests worldwide. In 2010, he won the World Champion of Sand Sculpting. His World Champion win was a proud moment in his career. This year, Thomas has been sculpting for 25 years and you can see his work at www.sandsational.com and on Instagram: #sandsationalsand

Martijn Rijerse, The Netherlands
Martijn was born 17-02-1974. He studied at the TU Delft Architecture and attained his masters degree in 2001. In another century, he studied hard to become an architect. Some friends came up with the idea to form a team at a sand sculpture competition. At that time making something other than dykes out of sand was a completely alien concept to him, but once he carved his first block of compacted sand, he was hooked! Not every sculpture he made remained standing, but through trial and collapse he learned what is, and is not, possible in different types of sand around the world. When working in sand, he loves to combine figurative and abstract sculpture to make pieces that do more than just replicate the world around us. He’s always looking for some kind of concept, or feeling, behind the sculpture. In this way, he hopes to engage the audience, and also (not unimportant), challenge and motivate himself to create sand sculptures again, and again… and again – they tend to disappear 😉

His work consists of participating in big scale events, competitions, demonstrations, workshops in sand, ice and snow in addition to foam sculptures and designs for theme parks and festivals. Over the years, he has been lucky to be able to work in a number of countries, including Holland, Denmark, Germany, Belgium, France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, England, Italy, Latvia, Georgia, Russia, the United States, Canada, China, Japan, Israel, Thailand, Taiwan and Australia.

Wilfred Stijger
Edith van de Wetering

Wilfred Stijger & Edith van de Wetering

The Netherlands

Wilfred Stijger, The Netherlands
Wilfred started sculpting sand on the beach of Katwijk, where he was born, after reading a book by Pieter Wiersma. His work impressed him a lot. After receiving many good reactions from the people passing by, he joined the sandsculpture festival in Scheveningen. There, he met Gerry Kirk, sculptor, and he invited Wilfred to work with him. Through his network, he was invited to festivals and competitions. Now, he travels around the world to give people beautiful sculptures in sand, snow and ice. One day, he hopes to organize his own festival.

Edith van de Wetering, The Netherlands
“When I was young I hated sand between my toes, but now I could not live without it.” Edith started sculpting sand through her architecture education at the Technical University. Participating in the sand sculpture festival in Scheveningen started as a hobby, but got out of control very fast. She has now been traveling around the world to build sand, snow and ice sculptures for over 20 years.

Agnese Rudzite Kirillova
Sanita Ravina

Agnese Rudzite Kirillova & Sanita Ravina


Agnese Rudzite Kirillova, Latvia
In 2007, Agnese graduated with a Masters degree in sculpting from Latvia’s Art Academy. In 2008, she became a member of Latvia’s Artist Union. During these years, she has made personal exhibitions, have participated in many group exhibitions, art projects, symposiums, festivals and contests as well, in Latvia and abroad (Japan, Vietnam, Russia, Lithuania, Estonia, Finland, Sweden, Germany, Poland, Spain, Italy, France, Switzerland, USA, Kuwait, Cabo Verde). She is working with very different materials – welding metal, fiberglass, concrete, styrofoam, ice, snow, sand, wood, bronze, aluminum, stone, some combined materials and also making fire sculptures. Recently, she has worked a lot with “short time“ materials, like ice, snow, sand, and fire, which has helped her to realize her ideas in monumental sizes, and to travel around the world and introduce people to her art. One of the most popular themes in her artwork is women – their emotional differences, reactions to surrounding environment, and fixing the well known icons. Another very big influence to her creativity comes from nature, different shapes of nature, and what can be shown as straight feedback to realism, like abstract objects.

Sanita Ravina, Latvia
Born in Riga and studied art from age 7, Sanita finished art school and design school, then went to the Art Academy of Latvia. At first, she learned to be a graphic and interior designer, but she found peace of mind in painting. Then, Sanita learned and worked (and is still working) as a tattoo artist. Next, she fell in love with sand/snow/ice sculpting. And this love is still going on. Impassioned in everything she is doing and making.

Brian Wigelsworth
Andy Daily

Brian Wigelsworth & Andy Daily


Brian Wigelsworth, USA
Brian has been sand sculpting pretty much his whole life. Loving to surf as a kid, if the waves weren’t breaking he was creating with sand on the beach. Later in life, he went to art school and got his degrees in Commercial Design and Illustration and started his own studio art company in Minneapolis. After he retired from a successful career, he loved entering in amateur sand competitions, then moving up to state competitions, until he was invited to a Master level competition in Ft Myers Florida, where he met true experts of sand and found himself in a whole new class of artists. It wasn’t long before he started his first sand sculpting company doing Miller Lite displays inside grocery and liquor stores. Growing his business, he then created the “Siesta Key Crystal Classic International Sand Sculpting Festival” in Sarasota, Florida. He now has partnered with Sculptor Andy Daily with their company “SandVenture Crew”, with clients like Hyundai, Marriott, New York Life, L’oreal, Peterbuilt, Margaritaville Clothing, The Inns of Sanibel and many more. But creating in Virginia Beach at the Neptune Festival, with all of their friends, is one of the highlights of their year.

Andy Daily, USA
When Andy was first introduced to sand sculpture in 2011, while on a date, it instantly became one of his favorite things to do and he started entering and winning local competitions. He was soon invited to help on various corporate works with an established local artist. Soaking up all of the new techniques he could helped to develop his skills. Today, he co-owns Sandventure Crew, a sand sculpting company that provides public displays of art to various event planners and resorts around the country. Andy married that woman who introduced him to sand and he does what he loves for a living. “It’s the best job I’ve ever had.”

Ilya Filimontsev
Dmitrii Klimenko

Ilya Filimontsev & Dmitry Klimenko


Ilya Filimontsev
Ilya studied art and sculpture at the Surikov Moscow State Academic Art Institute. Since 2005, he has been sculpting sand while traveling all over the world. He has participated in more than 150 international sand sculpture events around the world.

Dmitry Klimenko
In 2004, Dmitry graduated from the St. Petersburg State Academy of Art and Industry and started sculpting sand the same year. After almost twenty years of participating in many international championships, he is still learning and discovering new paths in this wonderful media. He has participated in international sand sculpture festivals in Japan, Hong Kong, Russia, Canada, USA, Vietnam, Kuwait, Belgium, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Denmark, the Dominican Republic, Poland, and Singapore. This is a great opportunity to grow and he doesn’t want to stop working with sand. Dmitry also works with wood carvings, ice, snow, bronze, and pumpkins.