This former Burlington resident is a sand sculpting champ. She's also a judge in a Race Against the Tide

·3 min read
CBC's Race Against the Tide sandcastle competition is set on a New Brunswick beach in the Bay of Fundy. Contestants only have six hours before the tide comes in, and washes away their sculptures.  (CBC  - image credit)
CBC's Race Against the Tide sandcastle competition is set on a New Brunswick beach in the Bay of Fundy. Contestants only have six hours before the tide comes in, and washes away their sculptures. (CBC - image credit)

Imagine racing against the clock to build an over three-metre-tall, realistic sculpture out of sand — only to watch high tides wash all your work away.

That's what contestants do every week on CBC's Race Against the Tide. The sandcastle competition features teams of artists competing to produce sculptures from a beach in New Brunswick's Bay of Fundy, before the tide rises to destroy their work.

Former Burlington, Ont., resident Karen Fralich is in her second season as one of the two judges on the show.

"It's the highest tides in the world in the Bay of Fundy," said Fralich, a sand sculpture competitor for nearly 30 years. The five-time world champion now lives in Guelph, Ont.

Race Against the Tide Season 2
Race Against the Tide Season 2

"In a normal masters-level contest. We get between three and 10 days to create our masterpieces. These sculptors have six hours to create them."

A 'fresh' new host

For Season 2, which began earlier this month, Fralich is a co-judge with California artist Rusty Croft.

The new host is Canadian rap legend Wesley Williams, better known as Maestro Fresh Wes.

Williams, who took over the role from comedian Shaun Majumder, said he's giving it his own spin.

"I thought he did an amazing job and I just tried to do my own thing," Williams said.

CBC
CBC

Williams is also an actor, notable for his recurring role on Mr. D (the CBC sitcom that ran from 2012 to 2018), a local radio host in Saint John where he currently lives, a published author, and a philanthropist for charities like Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children and Covenant House.

Williams remains active in the rap scene. He's set to perform Thursday (July 28) at the Road to OVO show in Toronto that will also feature other artists who paved the way for concert host Drake.

"When you think of me, a lot of people think of music, TV, but hosting is something outside of what is perceived," Williams said.

He said the fast-paced nature of Race Against the Tide was a challenge for him as well as the competitors.

"You have to know that tide doesn't care if you're a comedian or a rapper; the tide's coming in to demolish everything… so you got to deliver your lines quick," he said.

The road to professional sand sculpting

Fralich discovered sand sculpting in 1994 while working in a pottery studio.

She said she met a professional sand sculptor who was dating her boss. He saw Fralich's pottery work and asked for her help on a sand sculpture.

"The second I touched the sand, I was addicted," she said.

Submitted by Karen Fralich
Submitted by Karen Fralich

Her professional career began in 2000, when a company out of California hired her to work on a huge sandcastle project: a 500-tonne replica of the Wizard of Oz's Emerald City, entirely made of sand.

Two of her favourite sculptures from this coming season include an Aztec warrior and an owl she said is every mouse's worst nightmare.

As for the temporary nature of her artwork, Fralich said she doesn't mind seeing it wash back into the water.

"As long as I get to finish it the way I want, take pictures, I'm happy to walk away and let it go back to nature."

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