Canadian hip-hop pioneer helms new season of CBC reality show

(Robert Fisher photo) Wes Williams, aka Maestro Fresh Wes, host of the CBC reality show Race Against the Tide sand sculpture competition, does a take for an on-camera segment of the show while competitors are working just a short distance away at New River Beach.

NEW RIVER BEACH – Sand artists from around the world are racing against the tide to build elaborate sculptures ahead of the incoming tides at New River Beach.

Filming is underway for season four of the CBC reality show Race Against the Tide. The premise is simple: artists have six hours to create a themed work, which is then washed away by the incoming tide from the Bay of Fundy. Simple in concept, difficult in execution.

Marblemedia produces the show for CBC while Canadian hip-hop pioneer Wes Williams, aka Maestro Fresh Wes, hosts.

Williams joined the show in the second season, after inaugural-season host Shaun Majumder was unable to participate due to a scheduling conflict.

“I must have had a good audition, yeah,” laughed Williams about how he became the host. He said showrunner Carly Spencer contacted him before the second season. The showrunner is typically the producer and/or lead writer of a series.

Williams likes the chance to step outside the music world and feels it’s necessary to remain relevant.

“I try to expand, do different things, beyond just the parameters of music. I think we’re shooting ourselves in the foot if that’s all we do and that’s all we’re known for.”

He’s concerned about complacency creeping in if he doesn’t try to broaden his skills and his reach beyond just music.

“You’re basking in the realm of potential complacency.”

Williams doesn’t get to spend a lot of time interacting with the competitors because they don’t have the time.

“The title of the show is race against the tide, so there’s not too much time for conversation. They gotta focus. They’ve only got six hours before that tide comes crashing down.”

As an artist, Williams appreciates the work the sculptors do but “it breaks my heart, man, every day because they’re doing such epic work,” and it’s gone after a few hours.

“When I do music, you can hear it again and again and again. When these guys make a sand sculpture, the tide washes up and it’s done. You’ll never see that same sand sculpture again. It’s gone forever.”

(Robert Fisher photo) Competitors in the CBC reality show Race Against the Tide, a sand sculpture competition, work on their creations during a day of filming at New River Beach. Competitors have six hours to create their works of art before the Bay of Fundy’s incoming tide washes away the sculptures.

Professional sand artists Karen Fralich and Rusty Croft are the judges for the show. Fralich was initially brought on as a consultant in 2019 and during filming for the first season, in the middle of the first pandemic summer in 2020, “I was asked to become one of the judges which was super cool.”

Croft says he and Fralich have known each other for 25 years travelling on the sand sculpture circuit.

“They asked Karen who’s kind of a ham that would be good on camera.”

“Actually, they asked me who do you think would be good as judges on the show and my first pick was Rusty,” Fralich said.

Fralich says the big thing they look for is the ‘wow’ factor.

“You want to walk up to the sculpture and be stopped in your tracks and say, ‘that’s incredible’ and it blows your mind.”

Croft explained that each episode will cover three concepts: originality, creativity and design concept, and technique.

Fralich said all the competitors are professional artists and have come from India, the Netherlands, France, Korea and the United States in addition to Canada.

Croft said the common thread is “sand is everywhere.”

The six-hour timeline puts a lot of pressure on the competitors.

“When we do a professional contest, these guys are used to having an entire day just to pound up the sand and then three days to carve,” said Croft. “With Race Against the Tide you get about an hour to do your pound up and then spend the next five carving.

“It’s mind-blowing how much they can get done.”

Mark Bishop is executive producer of the show and a co-founder of Marblemedia. He’s a native New Brunswicker and he likes to have a New Brunswick angle to productions when it’s possible.

“When I grew up, this was called the Picture Province, so I’ve always believed, fundamentally, that this province should be in the picture,” he said.

Bishop talked about what makes New River Beach the perfect location for holding the competition: the sand.

“We had to find the right sand consistency,” he said, adding they sent people around the province before the first season to evaluate sand at beaches across New Brunswick. The sand needed a certain granularity that could, when mixed with water, stand up for several hours.

“Sea water and sand. There’s nothing else that’s used in the show. So, it has to be able to hold together and have a certain consistency.”

There are only “a small number of beaches in New Brunswick, and we tested quite a number, that actually have the right consistency of sand.”