Texas native David Robertson likes to unwind during frequent business trips to towns in Florida or California or wherever else his job takes him. That usually means spending many hours creating sand sculptures on the beachfront.
Last week, while staying at Pointe South Condominium Resort at 5000 Estero Blvd., Robertson was seen piling, carving and sculpting each day until the sun set into the Gulf. The amateur sand sculptor -like many master sand sculptors- has a nickname. They call him the "The Texas Sandslinger."
"I obviously have a passion for doing this. Otherwise, I wouldn't stand out here for eight hours," he said. "I love sculpting sand as much as I love to share it. It's great because it makes people smile. Most people will approach me and talk to me, and I enjoy chatting with people."
David Robertson, a Rockwall, Texas native, kneels by a sand castle he sculpted the day prior on Fort Myers Beach. The amateur sculptor carved sand art each day last week, including a manatee that he began Friday.
Many of Robertson's sculptures are sand castles. He calls Master Sculptor "Amazin'" Walter McDonald, a San Padre Island native, his mentor. You can see the influence in the fellow Texan's sand art.
"I'm a big castle guy, but I am trying to branch out for sculpture contests," said Robertson, who was working on a manatee Friday after completing a castle Thursday. "You can't keep me off the beach."
Robertson has been involved in amateur competitions for roughly five years. At first, he was part of a two-man team before going solo.
Robertson began sculpting sand in 2000, while vacationing along northern Florida beach towns with his wife and four sons. In 2007, he decided to enter an amateur competition and subsequently got hooked.
"I started doing sand sculptures with my boys when they were younger. Every year, the sculptures got bigger and bigger, and I discovered more techniques," he said. "Then, at the Texas Sandfest in Port Aransas, I entered in the amateur section as a team with a friend of mine."
Three years later, Robertson was ready to compete as an individual. He did so at Texas Sandfest and in the Sandcastle Days in South Padre Island.
"In 2011, I decided to go solo because I found it was difficult to do this kind of stuff with another person who wasn't into it as much as I was," he said. "I took second place and People's Choice in the adult solo amateur championships."
Robertson works for Erickson Engineering Company as a technical trainer. He teaches classes for engineers.
"I travel for a living, so a lot of the time I'm in Florida or the west coast (of the United States)," he said. "I've sculpted on beaches in the Fort Lauderdale area, Cocoa Beach, Alaska, Lake Winnipeg, South Carolina and San Diego."
His vacation on the Beach last week was rain-filled, but that didn't stop The Texas Sandslinger.
"On Tuesday, I actually built a 5-1/2 foot tall sand castle in a slow rain.," he said. "Right when I got to the very end, the whole thing collapsed. So I came back out later and built another one."
Robertson said he "loves" the sand on Estero Island, but he still needs to filter shell out of whatever he uses for sculpting. He hopes to make it down to the American Sand Sculpting Championships to compete in the amateur contest one year.
"I'd like to come down to the advanced amateur contest down here because they treat you like you are a professional," he said. "They give you the sand, the water and let you build for three days. All the other contests in the U.S. are either four- or six-hour contests. You really can't get to the next level with that shorter time frame. So, my goal is to make it down here one November."
In the meantime, Robertson will stay sharp in other amateur competitions. He expects to make it to Texas Sandfest again in April after missing last year.