South Padre Island – The tropical paradise that is South Padre Island is always a perfect place to soak up the Texas sun. Just hanging out on the beach is a blast near the border but if you really want to have fun, just find a bucket and fill it up with some sand. “Literally, just carve a big A for Andy is awesome,” joked Andy Hancock as he built a big ol’ sandcastle with a young man.
Andy Hancock is from Australia and a friend that we featured on The Texas Bucket List back in 2016 when we showcased the world’s largest permanent sandcastle. “I love it, it makes so many people and I think that’s what makes me happy,” stated Andy.
This trip, we took him up on an offer to learn how to make these works of art out of sand. “We call ourselves the Sandcastle Capital of the World, and we do that for a reason because we built more sandcastles than anybody else easily,” said Andy.
Andy has called south Texas home for the last 20 years and there’s a few words that he doesn’t use too often down in these parts. “There’s only three times we use the words, cold, ice and snow. Snow comes in cones obviously, and then a beer is cold and ice goes in cocktails,” joked Andy.
But he does below what it takes to build big sandcastles thanks to his sandcastle lessons that start off with 1400 pounds of sand standing in at 6 feet tall. “So the easiest way to make a sandcastle is to make a pencil.” I’m amazed at your angles and lines on that thing. It literally looks like a perfectly sharpened pencil. “That’s what you’re aiming for, even though I was corrected by a four year old the other day. She said, ‘That’s not a pencil, Andy.’ I said, ‘Oh I’m sorry. What is it?’ She said, ‘A crayon.’,” explained Andy.
Being able to create this incredible castle starts with the right tools for Andy. “These tools were developed on this very island many, many, many years ago by a man who still makes them. And he worked for 25 years for NASA. So we know we’re in good hands and, yeah.” NASA-engineered sandcastle tools. Yeah, we don’t mess around here,” said Andy.
That is until Andy needs the assistance of a straw. At least I’m good at something. “Blow it all off. There you go. A bit of puff. Oh, now we’re rocking. Boom,” said Andy as I blew all over the roof of the castle.
“There are two types of sandcastle builders, diggers and decorators. You’ve got diggers who just want to dig holes. They’re the guys who fetch the water, and the girls, who fetch the water and then dig the holes and shoveling sand. They love that. Then you get the others who stepped forward when the detailing needs to be done, and they love doing details,” explained Andy.
The reason sandcastles are so easy to stack on South Padre is simple. It’s the sand.“Because our sand comes from the Rio Grande, and it’s got between 30 and 40 different minerals in it. But the sand remains sharp. You can see, obviously for princesses, our sandcastle, when he zooms in we’ll see it’s all sparkly. That’s the flat surfaces of our crystals. They’re able to stick together more effectively with water between them because they’re like this,” explained Andy.
Getting in a good laugh with Andy makes this experience incredibly enjoyable. “An Australian and a Texan walk into a bar. Trouble is they never come out…” joked Andy. But before you know it, you really do get lost in the art of building a sandcastle. “That’s the beauty of it. You empty your head. You can empty your head of anything that you were thinking of and just forget the day is here and just have a good time. That’s the true beauty of it,” said Andy.