Mr. Sandman. Photo by John Gilhooley
Mr. Sandman. Photo by John Gilhooley

It's a Living

Ray Karch is a pro sandcastle builder in Laguna Beach

You really do this full-time?

Mostly in the summer months, but I can work from April through November, weather permitting. I was an attorney for years, and still am in the winter. But . . . I'm not sure you should mention that.

Why not?

People might not want to imagine their attorney building sandcastles the rest of the year. It sounds flaky.

This is California. A sandcastle-building lawyer is cool.

Well . . . I guess. I do team-building corporate events on the beach. I'll show a group how to play nice in the sand. I also do parties and beach weddings. I did a wedding proposal a while ago, in San Diego. It was a big heart in the sand, with two porpoises. What a country, huh? Getting paid to play in the sand!

Do you enter a lot of competitions?

I'll go, but mostly for exposure. Unless you win some cash, it's usually not worth it. Like in San Clemente, the sand's gritty, you're by the railroad track, and you're always running to feed the meter. I was like, "Y'know, I don't care anymore!" I did a fun event out in Barstow, in a dry riverbed. They ran a hose from a hydrant so we'd have some water. Great sand!

Are there stresses to your job people wouldn't expect?

I've had sunstroke; it's an occupational hazard—you get really sick to your stomach, then you get the chills. You think you're freezing in the middle of the summer. Now I know to wear [an SPF] 30 to 35 sunblock, a wide-brimmed hat, and a sweat suit, if I can stand it. This can be hard work. Your shoulder muscles will kill you.

So why do it? I've never understood why people put so much work into something that lasts only a few hours.

Well, when you go to a great concert, you can't keep the song. This is performance art; people can watch the creation of a masterpiece. And it's cheap therapy for me. I forgot to mention, I'm also a magician. I perform at the Magic Castle. My real dream is to combine the magic and the sandcastle building—like if I was working at a resort. So, uh, if anybody wants to hire me for something like that, my website is

Wow. You're a magician/lawyer/sandcastle builder?

I always say, "What law and magic have in common is that deception is highly prized in both."


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