Boardwalk Beat
by Ethan Orenstein
Published - 03/14/13 - 10:51 AM | 3608 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
JT Estrela puts finishing touches on a sand sculpture in Mission Beach. 
Photo by Ethan Orenstein | Beach & Bay Press
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Sand matters when it comes to art at the beach

It doesn’t have to be summer in Mission Beach to build sandcastles. That’s what JT Estrela believes.

While his kids are in school, Estrela spends the day building sand sculptures on the boardwalk at the end of Thomas Street.

“I do this mostly because it’s a great way to spend the day at the beach and I love it,” Estrela said. “I can pick up some extra money. But if I don’t, so what? I had a nice day.”

Estrela has been making sand sculptures on the boardwalk for about seven months, but it has been a hobby of his for about 10 years. His website,, features some of his work.

He used to be a high school teacher, but when his contract wasn’t renewed, Estrela found himself without a job and decided to head to the beach.

“The response to it has been really super-cool. Everybody that comes by is like, ‘I love what you’re doing,’ And that feels good, I’m not going to lie,” Estrela said.

Over the summer, Estrela received attention from tourists and locals alike. He said people constantly stopped by, asked questions and took pictures. Many left a tip in his tip jar —carved out of sand.

“The money, I don’t really care about,” Estrela said. “I’m stoked if I get three dollars in a day, because I can’t believe that somebody gave me three dollars to be building a sand castle all day.”

At night, Estrela goes to school to study accounting and actuarial science, but until he graduates, he hopes to continue doing what he loves.

“Essentially I’m a student right now, and I want to squeeze one more summer out of this before I have to go back to the real world,” Estrela said. “This last summer was one of the best summers of my life, no kidding. I got to do what I love all day long.”
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