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Photography by Robert Castro

 

In the fevered vision of 37-year-old Lucas Congdon, ordinary back yards morph into lavish tropical oases, where gushing waterfalls, grand grottoes, salt-water aquariums, meandering pools, fire features, elaborate kitchens and full-blast sound systems create a blissful family playground. Last year Congdon’s creations caught the attention of TV’s Animal Planet network, and a reality star was born. Last season’s Insane Pools: Off the Deep End chronicled Congdon and his colorful crew’s efforts to build ever-more-outrageous outdoor spaces for Southwest Florida clients, moving mountains of dirt and tons of boulders while battling heat, nerves and looming deadlines. This summer they started filming season two, which will air next spring.

 

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7:02 a.m. “We’re filming today, but I wanted to make breakfast for my wife, Galen, and our sons, Asa and Finnegan. The show has had a huge impact—some weeks we get 200 leads from all over the world. I’m struggling to find the sweet spot between growing the business and a sustainable family lifestyle.”

 

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7:34 a.m. “I’m heading to Bradenton, where we’re creating a jungled-out resort for a family. It’s a two-month-long, $175,000 project. Going forward, we’re focusing on bigger jobs—around $250,000 in Florida and $350,000-$500,000 if they’re out of state.”

 

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8:28 a.m. “The producers are telling me what scenes they want me to create today. There’s a camera guy who’s always on the job, capturing everything we do, and then the producers and the whole crew of 12 or 15 come in at key points.”

 

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9:37 a.m. “We use heavy equipment to reorganize everything in the landscape. Here I’m setting some of the 48 tons of Tennessee field boulders we’ll use.”

 

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10:15 a.m. “My mother and I are preparing the ground for landscaping. She was a landscaper when I was growing up in Vermont—she inspired my career. About 10 years ago she moved down to become part of my crew.”

 

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1:13 p.m. “It’s fun and exciting to be on TV, but it’s also very intrusive. It’s so hot, but you can’t wear a hat or sunglasses—they need to see your face. And they keep stopping and repositioning you. You have to accom-modate the camera, but the work still needs to get done.”

 

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3:28 p.m. “This pool is going to be fantastic. It will have a table with fire coming out of it, so they can sit around the fire on a hot Florida day and still be cool.”

 

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6:10 p.m. “I stopped by to check on a project I did on Siesta Key.  My clients inspire me with their dreams. I’m so happy with how this job turned out.”

 

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7:09 p.m. “We live on 2 ½ acres in Osprey. I use half an acre for my office and storing materials and equipment. We have a pool, a big pond, waterfalls, play equipment—the boys love it.”

 

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