Brotherly Love, Sibling Rivalry

Siblings Taylor and Trevor Crabb are fierce competitors on the professional beach volleyball circuit who do their battles not as teammates, but as adversaries.

With more than $13.5 billion in sales in the U.S. last year, including a phenomenal 30 percent growth from 2013, energy drinks and energy shots are major players in the exploding carbonated-soft drink world.

Who knew that two brothers from Hawai‘i — Trevor and Taylor Crabb — would be heavyweights in this high-energy rivalry?

“I’m sponsored by Rock-star and Taylor by Monster, so we have two competing brands in our living room in Hermosa,” chuckles older sibling Trevor. “There are cases of Rockstar and Monster in our living room, which is pretty funny when you see it.

“It is just one of our many brother rivalries.”

The Crabbs are two of the biggest stars on the professional beach volleyball tour. Eight months from now, they could even be representing the USA in Tokyo, at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games — although not as teammates. While they share a living room, the brothers are rivals on the beach.

Taylor (left) and Trevor Crabb hope to represent the USA at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

“We’ve gone up against each other all our lives, and not just volleyball, basketball, paddling — everything!” says Trevor, 30. “We’re very competitive and want to beat each other badly. But at the end of the day, we are family, and family always come first.”

Several years ago, the brothers were not competing against each other — they were partners on the sand. It was a business relationship, and like any partnership, there were challenges, communication gaps and disagreements.

The Crabbs did not qualify for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, but were a force as a duo on the tour. Their private battles became public at the first AVP event after the 2016 Olympics. They reached the semifinals in Chicago and were two victories away from their first title as a pair, but it was not to be. Instead, it was their last match together.

“In any relationship, you’re going to have ups and downs, and it makes you who you are,” says Taylor, 27. “You’ve got to roll with the punches life throws at you.”

Trevor agrees the tough times shaped who they are professionally and personally.

“Relationships are tough with all kinds of emotions, and nothing is ever perfect in life, so you’ve got to fight through it,” he notes. “We had our ups and downs, but we wouldn’t change it for anything.”

Taylor Crabb goes high to
score, low to keep the ball in play during AVP action.

Long before Trevor and Taylor became standout athletes at Punahou School, the brothers spent much of their childhood at Outrigger Canoe Club in Waikīkī.

If they weren’t in the ocean surfing or paddling with their mother, Paula, they were on the sand playing volleyball with their father, Chris. They still recall intense matches as young boys.

“We were fortunate to be members at Outrigger Canoe Club and have the baby court to play on whenever we wanted,” recalls Taylor. “There weren’t many beach volleyball courts then, especially for kids.”

“Outrigger is one of the main reasons we’ve enjoyed success,” adds Trevor. “Our dad is a huge part of who we are, especially as volleyball players. He taught us the game. He would bring us down here when we could barely walk and watch him play, so we definitely wouldn’t be in the position right now without Outrigger.”

While their father taught them the game, the brothers looked up to the “older boys” as their mentors. Names like Mike Lambert, Kevin Wong and Stein Metzger, who starred at Punahou School and later Stanford and UCLA, paved the way for others on the AVP tour.

“The last time the AVP came here was 2005. I was in the ninth grade and went with a bunch of friends,” recalls Trevor. “We knew Stein and Mike and the older guys from Hawai‘i, and we knew we wanted to be like them. Watching them play in their home state was awesome.”

“They would come back and play in the local tournaments, and we’d get to play with them,” says Taylor. “Not only getting to watch them, but actually getting to play with them and having them inspire us like that set the tone for us that we want to do the same thing.”

Trevor Crabb’s eyes are firmly set on qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo. ROBERT BECK / AVP PHOTOS

As teenagers, the Crabbs became gym rats. Trevor excelled in basketball, while Taylor gravitated to volleyball.

At 6-foot-4, Trevor was a basketball star for the Buffanblu and went on to play a season at University of Puget Sound before joining his brother at Long Beach State on the volleyball court.

Meanwhile, the 6-foot Taylor was a three-time Volleyball Magazine All-American from 2012 to 2014, and the 2013 AVCA National Player of the Year.

“We grew up playing everything mostly against each other. We were rarely on the same team, and then we finally paired up when we went to college together,” says Trevor. “That started our partnering, and we linked up on the beach shortly after.”

Olympic qualifiers started last year and run into June 2020. Right now, Trevor and childhood friend Tri Bourne, and Taylor and three-time Olympian Jake Gibb, are in the thick of it.

“Basically three teams are fighting for two spots, and obviously it would be great if both of us make it. That would make three Hawaiians out of the four men representing the USA, which would be special,” says Trevor. “But even if just one of us makes it, that’s still a huge win for our family and Hawai‘i. It is going to be a battle. It is going to be a grind. We still have six months left of qualifying next year, and we’re looking forward to it.”

Each team’s 12 best results count toward qualifying. Taylor and Gibb recently helped their cause by winning the 2019 AVP Hawai‘i Open in Waikīkī.

“When the AVP was back here in 2005, I remember my partner now, Jake Gibb, was in the finals in the King of the Beach,” says Taylor. “Just to be able to play next to him, a three-time Olympian, and the home crowd with my mom coming in from the Moloka‘i (Nā Wāhine o Ke Kai) race and catching the third set, it was really a dream come true.”

The event capped off a successful eight stop 2019 AVP Pro Tour season, which has seen an increase in overall attendance at every single tour stop.

“It’s all I could ever ask for, and it’s very special to be back home and the fans here are unlike anywhere else,” says Taylor. “Everyone cheers their loudest, and every time I went back to serve I saw a face I knew and recognized, and it was just so cool to see.”

If both brothers qualify for Tokyo, they would become the second set of siblings to play on different beach volleyball teams at an Olympics.

“It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid, but honestly for either one of us to make that happen and to represent the USA and Hawai‘i in the Olympics would be cool,” reflects Taylor. “We have the biggest support group here, and all we’re trying to do is make Hawai‘i proud.”

The brothers are now back on the mainland competing, but will return for the holidays for their fix of fresh poke, friends and family.

“I get in the ocean and fool around with friends and family. That is the most important thing to me: getting to see people I don’t see anymore,” says Taylor. “There’s nothing better in the world than that.”

“Surf, Sandy’s session and standup paddle — anything in the water for me brings me happiness,” echoes Trevor. “Just being with friends and family is awesome. I am grateful for everyone.”

They are also extremely grateful for their many sponsors who allow them to travel the world to play beach volleyball, even if it means having a living room full of energy drinks.

“Sometimes it feels like we’re posting ads for them on Instagram, but we genuinely thank them because they do help a lot,” says Trevor.

“Our sponsors pretty much pay the way for us pretty much in this sport. It is a crazy life, but we would not trade it for anything. It’s the best job ever.”

No one knows what the future holds, but at 43, Gibb is in the twilight of his professional career. Many believe Taylor will be looking for a new partner after Tokyo.

The brothers are open to all possibilities.

“We’re both focused on getting to Tokyo, and one day, who knows? Maybe we’ll play together again?” says Trevor. “Everything that happens in life is meant to be.”

“Everything that’s happened in our relationship has made us into the best humans we can be,” says Taylor. “I’m thankful for everything that’s happened, the hard times and good times. I know kids back home look up to us, so we want to be role models and show them that anything is possible. You can come from a small island and be one of the top players in the nation, if not in the world.”