There stood Taylor Crabb, arms raised, trophy in hand, smiling for cameras. A familiar pose that’s becoming quite regular for Crabb. It doesn’t matter if he’s on the left side or the right, with Jake Gibb or Tim Bomgren or Chase Budinger – Crabb can and will win with whomever he’s sharing the court, wherever the court may be.
Outrigger Canoe Club? He can win there, as he did on myriad occasions, with myriad partners, as a youth.
New York City? Yeah, he can win there too, alongside Gibb. It’s the site of his first AVP victory, and could very well be the site of his third by the end of this weekend.
Austin? He can push it to the finals there as well. Despite Gibb being injured. Despite only one day of practice with Tim Bomgren. Despite Bomgren playing on a sprained ankle that by the following Monday morning it would resemble a purple and blue softball more than it did an ankle.
Laguna Beach? In a tournament he never intended on playing? With a partner, Budinger, he’d never played with? Not even a practice? On a side he hadn’t played in more than a year?
He’ll take that $4,000 winner’s check, thank you very much.
This is what Crabb does. Not necessarily the winning, though he does that plenty.
He just plays.
He plays everything. Always has. Likely always will. Nothing at the moment seems to indicate otherwise, anyway.
“I’m pretty good at listening to my body,” he said, before admitting that “I do have injuries, but I do try to stay on top of them, one being my shoulder. A lot of rehab for my shoulder. Just keeping it strong helps a ton.
“Honestly, I’m sure you know, this is only my third year on the beach so far. Your first three years coming from indoor – the sand felt so good. Your body is way better. Right now, that’s where I am: 26, off the hard court, feeling good, diving around in the sand, nothing is going to hurt me.”
He’s feeling so good, in fact, that his coaches – Rich Lambourne and Tyler Hildebrand – have to order him not to practice. And even then, he still hops in for a drill or two, because there’s a new defensive position to learn, more reps to get, more playing to do.
He’s done this his whole life.
Doesn’t matter if it’s an impromptu dunk contest on the outdoor hoops across the street as a kid. Or basketball. Or soccer. Or living room volleyball. Or local tournaments that he’d win as a teen, “and I think everybody hated us,” he said, laughing. “All these 14, 15, 16-year-old kids winning all the tournaments.”
But when you look at those kids now, it’s easy to understand why most victories went their way.
There’s Trevor Crabb, winner of two FIVBs this year, and Tri Bourne, once ranked No. 2 in the world in 2016. There’s Spencer McLaughlin and Brad Lawson, two of the top-rated recruits from their respective high school classes. There is the Beard Brothers before they became the Beard Brothers. There is Micah Christensen, who is arguably the best setter in the world, and the Shoji brothers, Erik and Kawika, Olympians both.
And Taylor. Once the runt of the litter, so small that his aunt called him “Bug,” Taylor has since established himself as perhaps the best of the bunch, discussed among the top beach defenders in the country despite only being in his third year playing beach volleyball professionally. He whiffed in New Orleans of 2015, qualified for the next two – and then took a third in Manhattan Beach with Trevor.
Since then? He’s been in six finals and another six semifinals, with wins in New York and Hermosa Beach.
“I have goals in life,” he said. “And not one of those goal is to be better than someone. The short-term goal is to defend my title in New York. That’s No. 1 right now.”