California sculptor returns to Kalapaki Beach

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Jeff Haigh of California adds more water to battle the drying effects of the sun to his work in progress Sunday at Kalapaki Beach.

  • Dennis Fujimoto / The Garden Island

    Jeff Haigh of California infuses water onto the growing pile of sand Sunday at Kalapaki Beach, where he is working on a holiday-themed sand sculpture.

At first glance, Jeff Haigh of California looked like an ordinary beach-goer playing with a pile of sand Sunday at Kalapaki Beach.

But not when you look closer.

“This is six or seven tons of sand,” Haigh said. “And I’ve already infused about a ton of water —each bucket is about 35 pounds — to keep it from drying out.”

Haigh, like the perennial kolea, or golden plover, is back on Kauai for the holidays with his wife Cindy. This weekend he started work on one of his holiday-themed sand sculptures that, when completed, attracts scores of people wanting to photograph themselves against it as a reminder of their Kauai vacation.

“‘He’s back,’ I hear people say as they pass by,” Haigh said. “And yes, I’m working on a Christmas piece. But it’s too early to start cutting. I’ll probably start working on the piece from Monday morning, and it won’t look like anything until after lunch.”

Haigh, who has been a regular visitor to Kauai for the past 16 years, started developing his sand sculptures using Kalapaki Beach as his canvas.

“I can’t do it back home in California,” he said. “There’s no beach. We were staying at the Marriott’s Waiohai Beach Club earlier, but the sand there is too grainy to work with. This Kalapaki sand is pretty good to work with. But there was a lot of big debris — must have been from all the rain and floods you had this year. I just got through moving some of the bigger pieces away and using the shovel — Dickie Chang doesn’t know it yet, but it’ll become his; he’s had two of them stolen — and cleared the area.”

Haigh said his skills with working with the different types of island sand all developed after he started making his trips here.

“I started too late in life,” Haigh said. “But I’m still doing this. My original idea for the Mele Kalikimaka piece was to use the four main gods, or tiki. But that doesn’t work in the title. I’ll probably save that to use for the New Year’s piece because it fits in the title, and besides, it rolls off the tongue more easily.”

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