GULF SHORES, Alabama -- When we were kids, we built sandcastles on the beach for funzies. It wasn't a serious thing. But for Rick Mungeam, lead sand sculptor and master instructor at Beach Sand Sculptures LLC, sandcastles are a very big deal.
MTV News spoke to Mungeam (pictured below) at Hangout Music Festival, where him and his team were hard at work constructing a fancy-schmancy sand sculpture -- and getting paid to do it. Yep, that's right. These dudes get paid to hang out on a beach all day and play in the sand. How cool is that?!
But it's not all fun 'n' sun in the sand. It takes a lot of work and creativity to make these sculptures -- just like with any form of art, really. Mungeam started out as an architect who designed resort homes. Then he took his craft to a new medium: sand.
"I was just a guy playing in the sand," Mungeam told MTV News on Saturday, May 16. "I wasn't doing architecture anymore ... I needed something else to kind of do ... I was on the beach, I was playing in the sand ... for me, it was like a release of my design talent."
He founded Beach Sand Sculptures with his wife, Capri, over a decade ago. Now the company offers sandcastle building lessons and builds elaborate sculptures for various events.
"You have to get a contract ... to get paid, because that's what we're here to do, is to get paid, [make] a living," Mungeam said.
Sooo the real question is, how can you go about pursuing a career in sand sculpting? Mungeam gained experience by volunteering at state parks in Florida. His talent grew and he took on bigger projects.
When people ask Mungeam about his unconventional career swap, he tells them that "the work shoes [he wears] now are more comfortable" -- and, of course, footwear isn't exactly required when you're working in the sand.
"I developed a program [where] I was showing families [how to build sand sculptures], and then it kind of evolved into, 'Well, I can get paid to do this,'" Mungeam said. Then he transitioned into building sculptures for weddings and marriage proposals. "That's how I got my business started."
The sculpture at Hangout Fest (pictured below) started out with a giant pile of sand and a whole lot of water, the "glue that holds everything together," Mungeam said. He and his team came up with the concept for the sculpture by designing sketches and brainstorming ideas until they hit something that just worked.
But, uh, what exactly is it? I guessed it was a dragon in the making, but Mungeam doesn't like spilling the beans before the sculpture is completely finished.
"It's a performance art thing," Mungeam explained. "[Hangout Fest] is a three-day thing here, so people will come by on the first day and be like, 'I don't know what it is.' But they're intrigued by it, so then they come back again."
Serious Spoiler Alert: It's an octopus. These pics were taken on the second day of Hangout Fest, and the final sculpture will be revealed on Sunday, May 17.
"What I would tell people typically if they come up and they ask what we're building [is], 'It's a pile of sand. So how am I doing so far? Is it a pretty good pile of sand?'"
Yes, Mungeam. It's a damn good pile of sand.
Feeling Hangout Fest FOMO? Watch every can't-miss performance on our live-stream below: