International sand sculpting champions were declared today during the fifth annual Siesta Key Crystal Classic Master Sand Sculpting Competition, which is drawing thousands to Siesta Public Beach and raising support for endangered sea turtles. (See the sculptures Monday and Tuesday. Details at:

Awards were presented this afternoon, Nov. 16, to winning teams of two Master Sand Sculptors who each competed for a total prize pot of $15,000.

The Crystal Classic drew 11 teams from nations around the world, including Canada, the Czech Republic, Italy, Mexico, Philippines and the United Kingdom, along with multiple U.S. states. Morgan Rudluff and Abe Waterman took first prize ($5,000) for “Keyless” which features an angular man and dog locked outside a round house inhabited by smoothly-sculpted ladies and a cat.

“The idea is about wanting the opposite of what you have, and highlighting the differences between men and women, between cats and dogs,” said Rudluff. “This has been such a great event — great sand, nice beach, great people. We thank everyone who made it happen.”

Other prizes and winners were:

  • Second place ($4,000): “Crysaline” by Delayne Corbett and Fergus Mulvany
  • Third place ($2,000): “Mother of Dragons” by Dan Belcher and Karen Fralich
  • Sculptors’ choice: ($2,000): “The Big Splash” by Greg Grady and Melineige Beauregard
  • People’s choice: ($2,000): Winners will be announced after a final day of visitor voting on Tuesday, Nov. 18. Results will be posted at:

The Siesta Key Crystal Classic, a community event presented by Margaritaville®, is overseen by the Siesta Beach Festival Board and organized by a committee led by Festival Chair Maria Bankemper. The event was founded in 2010 through discussions between Master Sand Sculptor and Siesta Key resident Brian Wigelsworth and representatives of the Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce, the Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce, Sarasota County Parks and Recreation, Mote Marine Laboratory and Visit Sarasota County.

“As always, the event has turned out fantastic,” Bankemper said. “The turnout is more than we anticipated. What a wonderful way to bring our community together and benefit a great cause — Mote’s sea turtle program.”

Event proceeds support sea turtle conservation and research at Mote Marine Laboratory. In 2015, Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program will begin its 34th year of monitoring 35 miles of local sea turtle nesting beaches every day of nesting season, May 1-Oct. 31.

“We sincerely thank everyone who came together to make the Crystal Classic a success and support sea turtles,” said Mote President and CEO Dr. Michael P. Crosby. “With support from this event and from many generous people in our community, we look forward to carrying out our 34th year of world-class sea turtle conservation and research on local beaches, including beautiful Siesta Key.”

See the sculptures: The Crystal Classic will continue with two more sculpture-viewing days Monday and Tuesday, Nov. 17 and 18. Learn more at:

About Siesta Beach
Siesta Beach was named America’s No. 1 beach in Dr. Beach’s 21st annual Top 10 Beach List in 2011. The list is produced by Dr. Beach, also known as Dr. Stephen P. Leatherman, Director of Florida International University’s Laboratory for Coastal Research. Winning beaches must maintain their quality to stay on the list of National Winners. Siesta Beach remains on the list as of fall 2014.

About Mote’s Sea Turtle Conservation and Research Program
For 33 years, Mote Marine Laboratory has been coordinating sea turtle conservation on 35 miles of Sarasota County shoreline. This mission includes monitoring local sea turtle nesting every day of the nesting season, May through October, to document long-term trends in populations of sea turtles — threatened and endangered species protected by state and federal laws.

Partners and sponsors of the 2014 Siesta Key Crystal Classic
Partners are: ABC 7, Best Western Plus – Siesta Key Gateway, Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Sarasota County Parks and Recreation and Siesta Key Chamber of Commerce. Sponsors: ThePresenting Sponsor is Margaritaville®. Platinum Sponsors are: Margaritaville Apparel, Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, ABC 7, Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Best Western Plus – Siesta Key Gateway, Hyatt Residence Club, Visit Sarasota County and Sarasota County Parks and Recreation. The Photo Op Sponsor is Benderson Development Company. Quick Sand Sponsors are: Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar and Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar. Artist Team Sponsors are: Badger Bob’s Services, Siesta Key Village Association, Observer Media Group, Siesta Key Association, Beach Bazaar, Sights and Sounds AV, Inc., Daiquiri Deck Raw Bar and Captain Curt’s Crab & Oyster Bar. Crystal Sand Sponsors are: Wentzel’s Heating, Air Conditioning & Electrical, Gerdes Construction, Inc., Sea Shell Condominium, Studio F, Serbin Print Marketing & Publishing and Siesta Sands. Feed the Artists Sponsorsare: Village Café, Bath & Racquet Fitness Club, Panera Bread, Gulf Gate, Main Street Lakewood Ranch, Another Broken Egg Café, Demetrio’s Restaurant & Pizza, The Old Salty Dog and Siesta Key Oyster Bar. Patron Sponsorsare: Dr. Kumar and Linda Mahadevan, Lighthouse Property Management, Sherry Hiatt, Brittany Sanning, Siesta Isles Association, Peter and Leslie Newman and Greater Sarasota Chamber of Commerce.

Siesta Key Crystal Classic entrance signGroup shot of sand sculptorsMorgan Rudluff and Abe Waterman with first place winning sculpture
Winning Sculpture KeylessDog in winning sculpture KeylessBack of winning sculpture Keyless
Second place - CrysalineKaren Fralich and Dan Belcher with third place winning sculpture - Mother of DragonsSculptors choice winner - The Big Splash