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I went to the Hotel Del in hopes of fire pits on the patio bar, but the fires had been extinguished for the evening and the bright light of the moon refracting off the ocean was a bigger draw than the bar. Walking across the fine sand of the beach, the sandcastle in the middle distance began to resolve. It's spires and cupolas had been illuminated in a Disney-esque fashion so that, after dark it glowed in much the same manner as the grand hotel along beach.

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This was the work of Bill Pavlacka, who has been building sandcastles as a hobby for nearly thirty years. He even has a website. During the summer, he builds an extravagant sand castle on the beach outside the Hotel Del almost every weekend. Guests, especially wedding parties, love to stand around and take pictures with his castles. And rightly so, as they're amazing to behold. Bill coaxes more fine detail from wet sand than most people could get out of plaster or stone. His castles have tiny trees, bridges, flying buttresses, and Gothic spires. They have perfectly smooth roads and rough textured stones.

Bill said that he uses masonry tools for the most part, but that anything can be a tool, forks, spoons, whatever. Building one of the castles takes about nine hours and they last for a couple of days before the elements take their toll and the castles made of sand dissolve.

How hard would it be to spend a whole day building something and then have it fall apart, over and over again? I would imagine that the urge would be to destroy what you had built before it could be taken away, to exercise a little bit of "preservation through destruction," Glory Daze style! I'm sure that Bill Pavlacka is able to be very zen about the whole thing after thirty years of castle building, but I bet that the first few were hard to see go.

Sometimes, he uses reference materials to get things right. People commission sandcastles for events and the often come in with photographs demanding an exact copy. His work is always available to interested parties at thesandcastleman.com or by phone at 619-252-0392.

Of course, anyone who just wants to see it should cruise down to the Hotel Del on a weekend. I recommend going under cover of darkness because the moon on the waves and the regal hotel in the background make the sandcastle look like it belongs there, just another wonder on the beach.

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