For nearly 30 years Shawn Gayton has been proving that sandcastles aren't just for kids.

The artist from Nine Mile River, N.S., first tested his construction skills in Clam Harbour Beach's annual sand castle competition as a teenager. 

Thousands of people descended on the beach Sunday to watch Gayton and his competitors work. 

He said his drive to improve on the previous year's design keeps him coming back year after year. 

"It's a challenge trying to get a little higher every year with it," he said. "It can be heartbreaking too. Because you try to go too high and get greedy and it falls down."

sandcastle

There are no limits on what people can create in the competition. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

Over the years, Gayton has shifted from trying to make giant sculptures to focusing on delicate sandcastles. 

He has also perfected his technique — building his own sculpting tools and using a straw to blow away tiny portions of sand. He even lines his buckets with wax so the sand slides out in one piece.

"I don't keep track, but my friends tell me around six or seven times I've won," he said.  "I do a lot of other art forms, and this is just another medium I like to play with." 

sandcastle

Participants are allowed to use whatever natural items they find on the beach. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)

No frills, just sand

The annual competiton brings in dozens of participants and as many as 10,000 spectators young and old, said Paul Forrest, who heads up the event for the Halifax Regional Municipality.

"There's a lot of residents on the Eastern Shore that have been participating in this event since it started," he said. 

And what started as a community event has also grown to be a destination for people from outside the area. 

"It's a fun, easy, throwback event. There's no crazy entertainment or flashing lights. It's just nature and sand and I think a lot of people like to get back to that." 

sandcastles

The competition has categories for children, youth, adults, and fan choice. (Marina von Stackelberg/CBC)