This former Burlington resident is a champion sand sculptor. She is also a judge in a Race Against the Tide

Imagine racing against time to build a realistic sand sculpture over three meters tall – only to watch the high tides wash away all your hard work.

This is what candidates do every week on CBC Race against the tide. The sandcastle contest features teams of artists competing to produce sculptures from a beach in the Bay of Fundy, New Brunswick, before the tide destroys their work.

Former Burlington, Ontario resident Karen Fralich is in her second season as one of the show’s two judges.

“These are the highest tides in the world in the Bay of Fundy,” said Fralich, a sand sculpting competitor for nearly 30 years. The five-time world champion now lives in Guelph, Ontario.

Sand sculptures are washed away by the tide at the end of each Race Against the Tide challenge. (Race against the tide season 2)

“In a normal masters level competition. We have 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 debuted earlier this month, Fralich is 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 put his own spin on it.

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

This former Burlington resident is a champion sand sculptor She
Wes Williams, otherwise known as Maestro Fresh Wes, is the host of the second season of Race Against The Tide. (Radio Canada)

Williams is also an actor, notable for his recurring role in 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 is due to perform Thursday, July 28 at the Road to OVO show in Toronto, which 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’s perceived,” Williams said.

He said the fast nature of Race against the tide was a challenge for him as well as for the competitors.

“You have to know that the tide doesn’t care if you’re a comedian or a rapper; the tide is coming to demolish everything… so you have to deliver your lines quickly,” he said.

The Path 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 his help with a sand sculpture.

“The second I hit the sand, I was hooked,” she said.

A woman in a red shirt kneels in front of a sand sculpture the size of a city bus, which depicts a mermaid, a huge fish, mermaid children and is surrounded by a school of fish.
Former Burlington, Ontario resident Karen Fralich, pictured with one of her award-winning sand sculptures in Weymouth, England, in 2011, now lives in Guelph, Ontario. A five-time world champion in sand sculpture, she is one of the judges of Race Against the Tide. (Submitted by Karen Fralich)

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

Two of her favorite sculptures from this upcoming season include an Aztec warrior and an owl which she says are every mouse’s worst nightmare.

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

“As long as I can finish it how I want, take pictures, I’m happy to walk away and let it come back to nature.”

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