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Annual World Championship of Sand Sculpting
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Like surgeons of the sand, artists gather from all over the world to compete in the annual World Championship of Sand Sculpting contest. Many of these artists have trained in other fields such as architecture, engineering and landscape design. A few are actually real-life surgeons.

In order to create such massive sand sculptures, the artists must be in excellent physical shape. Each must take on the back-breaking challenge of shoveling, packing and pounding tons of sand on a tight deadline. And the sand doesn't come from the beach, it tends to fall apart more easily after being worn down by waves. Instead, the participants use special sand purchased with the event in mind.

Even though they are fierce competitors, "there's real camaraderie between them," said organizer Doc Reiss. "They'll stop what they're doing and help each other."

Here are some of the most magnificently surreal sand sculptures from the latest contest, which took place last year in Federal Way, Washington.
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