On the sweltering, but beautiful Saturday morning of 15 March, over 800 people trudged barefoot, a little sweaty and a lot enthusiastic, through North Beach’s Bay of Plenty with buckets and spades in tow. The aim, as set by Durban-based financial services company, The Unlimited, was to try and break the Guinness World Record for the most sandcastles built in an hour.
People had started arriving from the early hours of the morning to help set up what was to be quite a massive and complicated operation. Twenty teams had been preregistered, and each team had a cordoned off area, with their corresponding numbers, to build their castles. They were briefed as follows on the Guinness specifications: each sandcastle had to be 60 cm x 60 cm x 60 cm, with 4 turrets and a flag. Castle perimeters were set up with wooden square guides and colourful plastic buckets and spades were handed out to assist with the effort.
Guinness World Record adjudicator, Fortuna Burke, arrived dressed for what I presume was a UK summer. Closed shoes, collared shirt and a scarf offered her little respite beneath our African sun, but the surrounds were blue skies and more sunshine than she has probably been exposed to, in maybe a year.
I had expected stern men in suits, with grumpy, poker faces and a lot of heavy brow-wiping. Ms Burke proved to be the antithesis of that and was very gracious and approachable, surprisingly didn’t dissolve in the heat and was wonderfully encouraging.
Once she arrived, the sandcastle guidelines were reexplained (in the empirical system by Ms Burke and translated into the metric system for the rest of us) and at 10am the clock was activated and sandcastle building frenzy began.
The global record to beat was 2230 sandcastles that was set by the German town of St. Peter-Ording on 13 July 2013. Although that record wasn’t beaten this time, a new one for Africa was set at 1160 sandcastles built within an hour. Considering how the beach was completely blanketed in sandy outcrops by the end of it, it was testament to what an incredible achievement it was. It transformed the landscape into the Bay of Plenty Sandcastles.
The operation was impressive in how well-cordinated it was, and it made me so proud that it was happening in Durban. Camera crews and helicopters were everywhere. People of all ages participated; toddlers to grandparents. It was ensured that the over 800 people involved had foam visors for the sandcastle fun, and then adequate shelter from the sun along with food and drink thereafter.