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Annual Sand Sculpting Contest Kicks Off in Coney Island

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The weather was great Saturday for sculpting sandcastles at Coney Island as part of the 24th annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest. NY1's Bree Driscoll filed the following report.

Andy Gertler has been making sand masterpieces for the past 16 years.

He says turning a pile of sand into something else entirely takes focus.

"It is very zen. You can lose yourself in it. Hours can go by. I need to remember to look up, to look at a bikini," Gertler says.

In the shadows of Gertler's creation, dozens of amateurs are taking part in the 24th annual Coney Island Sand Sculpting Contest.

Gertler says the key to a winning design is using enough water.

"Make sure you get your sand really, really wet. Every grain of sand needs to be wet," Gertler says.

Gertler's partner, Sue Beatrice, says it is important to have the tools in your arsenal.

"This is a masonry tool cement. This is actually a baker's tool for icing. This is a palette knife," says Beatrice.

Some of the amateurs turned to more unconventional methods.

"I didn't have anything to pack it in so I said he is the only one. Can't be too heavy. And he fits perfectly in there," says contestant Gilbert Ortega.

"I have to bang the bottom of the garbage can so my brother can stomp on it," contestant Jubilee Acevado explains.

John Alberga, who won last year, says it really takes a well-rounded team to transform a pile of sand into a winning sculpture.

"I don't consider myself an artist. I am from an engineering background. Tim is plumbing. Rich is a tile guy—Rich is an artist,"says contestant John Alberga.

While the contestants were enjoying the fun in the sun, all of their hard work will help benefit families in Coney Island who were victims of Hurricane Sandy.

"Small projects that can really destroy a family, whether it be basements that were converted to rooms that now are not rooms. We have a client who has a gigantic hole in the porch. They can't enter their house," says Nish Suvarnakar of Brooklyn Community Services .

Organizers says while many homes and businesses have been rebuilt it is important to remember there are still those who are struggling. ClientIP:,, UserAgent: CCBot/2.0 ( Profile: TWCSAMLSP