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Special Occasion Giant Sand Designs Offered by Oregon Coast Inn, Now Lincoln City Legend

Published 11/29/2019 at 8:25 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Lincoln City: Oregon Coast Inn Offers Dazzling Sand Designs to Guests - Proposals, Birthdays

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(Lincoln City, Oregon) – It's not uncommon to find giant scrawls in the sands of the Oregon coast, giant designs that sometimes come with generic, cheery messages or declarations of love for a particular person. They can be intricate and elaborate, down to simple words in huge, bold letters. They can be quite a delight.

The difference in one part of Lincoln City, however, is that one hotel in the Nelscott area will actually offer them up to guests for special occasions, creating a truly individualistic spotlight for a loved one. Inn at Spanish Head soars above the beach to the tune of ten stories high, with its lounge gazing down on gloriously pristine sands. It's the perfect canvass for a nifty greeting, message of love – or even a marriage proposal. So that's what began happening at the Inn about ten years ago, as two enterprising men who worked there started taking their artistic leanings to grains and granules and scrawling out designs and messages on behalf of guests – and it's now become a bit legendary. Guests can look down at what the hotel has created for them and revel in the extra attention.

Marc Rini is currently the head sand designer at the Inn at Spanish Head, something he and the Inn offers to guests. His main gig is a bellman at the hotel, but when the requests come, he heads out to the sands with rake in hand and scribbles, twists and turns his way into some beautiful creations.

Rini said it all started over ten years ago when another man named Patrick would do this every once in awhile. Rini's been working there for 24 years now, but ten years ago he decided to try his hand at sand designing alongside Patrick. He moved on and out of the Inn eventually and Rini has been doing it ever since, joined occasionally by other employees who have tried their hand at it.

Back then, then-assistant manager Susan Burr suggested the sand design idea to mark some special occasion, and they thought it would be a one-time thing. But it took off. (Burr, by the way, later became manager for many years but passed away this spring).

“Wound up being a great idea,” Rini said. “So we continued doing it for birthdays, anniversaries, proposals.”

Rini said proposals are the big thing. Someone comes in, tells management they want to get a “will you marry me” written in the sand, and Rini goes off and does it by a specific time. He says they seem to be “batting 1000 on the proposals,” meaning apparently no girl has said no.

“Far as we know, no one has said no,” Rini said. “I had a weird vibe about one of them once. I think the response from the guy was that she had said yes, but you could not tell by his face.”

Having done this for so long, he's gotten pretty good at it. But there are moments he's truly not satisfied with his creation.

“There's been some pretty warbly pictures out there,” he said. “I've come up to see what I've done and I'm not always happy. Usually other can't see what I'm seeing, my flaws.”

How does he do it? It's a tad hard to explain his techniques in many ways.

“You start with a circle, make a yourself a compass by turning around holding the rake, and a make a perfect circle,” he said. “If you wanna make a bigger circle, you walk the circle you just made with the rake outstretched. You make another perfect circle.”

He said you regulate sizes sometimes by placing the hands at certain lengths along the rake. From there, as long as you keep the same distance you can make a star in the middle of the circle or even a flower. Circles intersect with other circles, and dozens of little tricks are used to create other intricate things.

“You just look at your proportions and keep those in mind as you move,” he said. “Usually, you come out with a pretty decent drawing. The more geometric drawings are easier to do because they don't have to be as perfect. When you're doing a bird or something it has to be proportionate.”

The complex designs almost seem like mandalas or ancient Hindu designs in some way, and Rini joked they might even look Aztec at times. But that's not the case.

“There's nothing on purpose,” he said. “It's just the design I come up with when I'm down there. I don't have an idea. I don't look down there and go, OK, that's what I'm going to draw out or that's what I'm gonna do. Normally, I go down there and kind'a wing it.”

These requests come sometimes once a month, but then there are months when nothing happens, and then he may get hit with two to six requests all of a sudden. The going rate? The hotel doesn't charge for this, but the common gratuity is usually about $40. He's made as little as $20 to as much as $200. The exclamations of glee from the person on the receiving end are reportedly quite worth it.

These are done for a lot of birthdays, anniversaries and proposals. Or sometimes someone just wants to give a friend a nice greeting, like one condo owner there who has them done to say hello to a guest she has over. Another regular pair of customers to the legendary Oregon coast hotel will do them for each other: the husband has “happy birthday” written in the sand to his wife, and the next time she does it for him.

Rini hasn't done anything too unusual – and no one has ever asked for anything inappropriate on the sands. But there have been some creative highlights for him over the years.

“One might've been a congratulations or a honeymoon where I put a couple of fish,” he said. “One was a fish and the other a killer whale, one representing the guy and one the girl. And there was a kind of a cool groundhog I did for Groundhog's Day.”

Inn at Spanish is at 4009 SW Highway 101. 1-800-452-8127 or 541-996-2161.

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