Taylor Crabb fights for a spot on the court in the 2020 Olympics

A bug’s life.

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  • Written & photographed by
    Kat Monk

In August 2016 the excitement was evident. The center court stadium was packed for the men’s quarterfinals as the sun set on a beautiful evening of the illustrious Manhattan Beach Open. The crowd was eager to watch two virtually unknown Hawaiian brothers who were tearing through the tournament. It was a matchup between 24-year-old, 6’ Taylor Crabb and 26-year-old, 6’4” Trevor Crabb versus 6’7” Olympian Jake Gibb and 6’6” Olympian Casey Patterson. The match certainly did not disappoint.

The latter team was the clear favorite in height, age and experience compared to these smaller young guns who had only been playing in professional beach tournaments for a year or so. The brothers had nothing to lose and everything to gain. Adding to the excitement in the stands, hecklers relentlessly taunted the more seasoned team.

The brothers were on fire. It was remarkable to watch Taylor pick up all the balls—whether they came over on one, two or three. In the end, the Crabb brothers prevailed in two games—not just in this quarterfinal win. Their names were now cemented in everyone’s minds as formidable partners.

Gibb and Patterson went on to win the tournament from the elimination bracket. Taylor—who has since relocated to the South Bay—didn’t know it at the time, but one day he would be on the same side of the net as Jake Gibb, competing for a spot in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Taylor and partner Jake are currently second overall in the United States in their bid for a spot at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo. “First time I played Taylor he beat me,” says Jake. He had the demeanor and athleticism to be great. He’s now just realizing how good he can be.”

“Bug” is a nickname Taylor, who is now 27, given to him by his mom because he was the smallest in his family. So how does a small kid from Honolulu, Hawaii, become one of the best beach volleyball defenders in the nation?

First, he has volleyball in his blood. His dad played professionally, and his uncle was an assistant coach for the 1984 U.S National Volleyball team that won an Olympic Gold medal in Los Angeles. Taylor’s cousin is three-time indoor volleyball Olympian Lindsey Berg, who won two silver medals in 2008 and 2012.

Taylor grew up on the courts of the Outrigger Canoe Club in Honolulu—home to many great players including Kevin Wong, Stein Metzger, Sean Scott, Scott Wong and Mike Lambert. Mix in some sibling competitiveness with a brother two years his senior and about four inches taller, and you have the perfect combination for a passionate and dedicated athlete.

These brothers were not partners growing up though, according to Taylor. “We didn’t get along very well growing up,” he says. “It was always a competitive battle between us.”

Despite that sibling rivalry, Taylor followed his brother to California State University Long Beach. While there he did not disappoint. He was a four-year letter-winner as an outside hitter on their indoor team, a two-time All American and the 2013 AVCA national player of the year. After graduating in 2014 Taylor went to France and played professional indoor volleyball for a year.

When the opportunity presented itself in 2015 for him to play with his brother, Taylor jumped at the chance. “It’s like a double-edged sword playing with your sibling at a high level,” Trevor explains. “Our chemistry was unmatched, however. We got easily frustrated with one another—not only on the court but off of it as well.”

Despite the challenges, their partnership added to their notoriety—even if they have moved on to different partners. “Playing against him is always a battle since we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” says Trevor. “It almost always comes down to a mind game in the end between us. We both want to beat each other so bad that it makes it always an intriguing match.”

According to USAV coach Tyler Hildebrand, there are at least 10 guys on the tour now that are as big as 6’9” Olympian Phil Dalhausser. Beach volleyball can be all about height, but if you are a good enough defender you can compete at that highest level.

Taylor is that player. He is known for digging a hard-driven ball. “Taylor is one of the special ones,” says Olympian Holly McPeak. “He is a dynamic defender and plays big at the net, able to terminate against the giants.”

Coach Tyler adds, “Taylor is incredibly receptive. He understands what you are telling him before you even tell him.”

When Tyler, not even a decade older than Taylor, was the assistant coach at CSULB, he and his player didn’t exactly see eye to eye on a missed weight-lifting practice. In an effort to lay down the hammer, the coach told Taylor, “Someday you are going to want to be in the Olympic games for beach volleyball, and I am going to be there to coach you.” Now five years later, that prediction may come true.

Team USA practices are no joke either, with Taylor/Jake regularly training with Trevor/Tri Bourne, Reid Priddy/Theo Brunner, Stafford Slick/Billy Allen, Chase Budinger/Casey Patterson and even sometimes Dalhausser/Lucena when they are in town. According to Tyler, “Their sibling competitiveness raises the level of the entire USAV practices.”

Partnering with Jake has already resulted in some great wins, including the Seattle and Chicago opens in 2018. They finished second in Austin, New York and Manhattan Beach and third in Hermosa Beach.

Watch out for the “Bug,” as he is sure to entertain you on the beach with his athleticism, abilities and humor.


Daily nutrition:

My diet consists of a lot of meat/proteins. I am not a picky eater whatsoever; however I do like to eat healthy and buy organic groceries. Some things I like to add into my diet are turmeric and adaptogens. I try to stay away from a lot of dairy and gluten.

Workout routine:

My workouts are specifically made for me and my body from my trainer back in Hawaii. Depending on what part of the season we are in, I work out four days a week in preseason and three or two days a week depending on tournament schedule. My workouts are focused mainly around explosion for my legs and opening up my hips (because I have very tight hips); having a strong core; and rehabbing my shoulder and keeping it strong for all the swings I take throughout the season.

Free time:

I like to relax and watch a big sports game on my couch with friends. An activity that is good for my mind and soul is snowboarding. I have been snowboarding since I was 8 years old. Something about being on the mountains in the snow is very calming for me.

Fitness & health inspiration:

Watching top athletes in my sport train hard on and off the court really inspires me to work just as hard.

Sport I’m not good at:

Long-distance running.

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