HERMOSA BEACH, California — It had been nearly a year since Taylor Crabb and Trevor Crabb recorded an episode of their hilarious but short-lived and eponymously coined show “Drinking Whiskey with the Crabbs.” So they quickly forgave Tri Bourne for wondering how to begin the revival, which on last Friday night was a combination of Whiskey and SANDCAST: Beach Volleyball with Tri Bourne and Travis Mewhirter.
“You take it from here, you guys know how to run the show,” Bourne said before pausing. “So how does this work?
“Well,” Taylor said, “I guess we’ll just start drinking.”
And thus he popped open a bottle of Widow Jane, a 10-year bourbon assembled in Brooklyn, and the drinks were poured. Actually, pause there. Hold on a sec.
“It’s a 10-year-old bottle, but we’ve had it for a year,” Trevor Crabb said as he swirled his drink. “So it’s technically an 11-year-old bottle.”
No, that’s not how whiskey works, Trevor, and the room — Bourne’s studio in Hermosa Beach — erupted in laughter, which it would do frequently over the next 75 or so minutes, and would continue to do so late into the night at Underground Pub in Hermosa. It would erupt in laughter because this wasn’t so much a podcast as it was, simply, six guys — Bourne, the Crabbs, Nick Lucena, Taylor Sander, and me — sitting around, drinking whiskey, talking whatever came up.
It’s partly why the Crabbs’ erstwhile show, Drinking Whiskey with the Crabbs, was so popular: Viewers and listeners were invited into the kitchen of two of the best beach volleyball players in the country, talking about whatever people talk about over drinks. They were able to see Trevor and Taylor Crabb at their most human level — not the preposterously talented beach volleyball players they are, but the normal guys who just like a good glass or four of whiskey.
It started like a great many initiatives did in the past few years: COVID hit. Lockdowns were ordered. There was no beach volleyball to play.
The Crabbs were bored.
“We were with our cousin in law who did all the filming and we said there’s nothing to do now, everything’s closed, you can’t do anything,” said Trevor, who is 32 years old and the elder of the two. “So we said ‘We really like whiskey, what if we made a show?’ So that’s how it happened. The first episode was a hit.”
Their first episode was the only one that didn’t include a guest, unless you count the guest to be a caramel-colored bottle of Heaven’s Door, a Tennessee bourbon that “we chose because hopefully one day, we get let into heaven’s door,” Taylor said, before losing all ability to control a straight face and melting into a fit of laughter. From there, an esteemed group of guests were featured, from future Tokyo Olympians in Brandie Wilkerson to former Olympians in Sean Rosenthal, from good friend Chris “Geeter” McGee to a legend in Mike Dodd. It was popular enough that soon they were getting expensive whiskeys and bourbons delivered to their doors for free, which was the whole point of the enterprise to begin with. Some bottles, like Hibiki, a Japanese whiskey, fetch prices of up to $500.
But beyond the fact that a new content stream among thousands of new content streams was created during the strangest time of this generation was this: Were Trevor and Taylor Crabb … friends?
Just a few years prior, their partnership, successful as it had been — they made every AVP semifinal together in 2016 — was also fraught with tension. When they split, their rivalry became appointment viewing, either in person or online, where the trash talk often stomped over the line of gamesmanship and deep into the realms of too personal. Yet here they were, living together in harmony, starting a show together, openly rooting for one another. There was Taylor Crabb, applauding his brother when he won the Manhattan Beach Open with Reid Priddy in August of 2019. There was Trevor Crabb, backing up his brother with an intensity that even drew some heat for Taylor when he tested positive for COVID-19 during the Tokyo Olympics, and the ensuing conditions in which Taylor had to live.
“I don’t know if any of our listeners have been in jail, but it was like that,” Taylor said of his quarantine in Tokyo. “They locked the window! I thought about breaking it but I thought that might have gotten me in a lot of trouble. Every day, at 7 a.m. they wake you up for a temperature check, 8 a.m. breakfast. At 12 they sound the alarm to check your temperature, 1 p.m. lunch, 4 o’clock take temperature, 5 p.m. dinner is available.”
Tokyo was discussed in a behind-the-scenes manner that few outside of their direct families and close friends had heard before. Lucena, too, joined the show, as did Sander, Taylor Crabb’s new partner, and all traded their bizarre experiences and stories in Japan. Trevor, too, despite not competing in Tokyo, had a story of his own about those Olympics.
He was supposed to play. Was Jake Gibb’s first backup — players were encouraged to have a backup — should Taylor test positive. The 2-hour span in which Taylor tested positive may be the most eventful of the brothers’ lives. For while Taylor was getting his nose swabbed in Tokyo, Trevor, his season over, was making the drive to Laguna Beach to play a round of golf with Chris Reames, the founder of the popular clothing company, Slunks.
But on the first tee, Trevor felt his back go out. On his ensuing shot, the pain worsened, to the point that he couldn’t even bend over to putt. When he alas made it back to the clubhouse, slumped on a couch, unable to move, his mom called, informing him that Taylor had tested positive for COVID.
“I said F***!” Trevor recalled. “Is Taylor OK?”
To which Taylor laughed as hard as you might ever see Taylor Crabb laugh.
“You did not ask that,” he said. “You’ve never asked that in your life!”
The details of that conversation between Trevor and his mother, then, might be unknown, but what followed 30 minutes later is, because this time on the other end of the phone was Gibb. He needed a replacement defender. Would Trevor be up for the job?
And then Trevor Crabb said the darndest thing: I cannot play in the Olympic Games.
“I spit whatever I was drinking. Probably some electrolytes,” said Lucena, who was in Tokyo with Gibb. “[Gibb] told me he had asked you and you said ‘No, I’m over it.’ If my back hurt, I’d say ‘Dude just inject me.’ I’d be crawling on the court.”
Lucena was having a wild ride of his own in Tokyo. His partner, Phil Dalhausser, had been put into quarantine due to contact tracing, so Lucena was spending his days with Gibb, and coaches Jason Lochhead and Rich Lambourne. So when Gibb then needed a second replacement, it was Lucena who sang the praises of Tri Bourne, who has essentially been a brother to the Crabbs since they were kids being raised on the courts of the Outrigger Canoe Club in Honolulu, Hawai’i.
So Bourne hightailed it back from a vacation in Las Vegas, taking the call from Gibb at a Dairy Queen’s on the way home, suddenly weighing whether or not a gigantic Blizzard is the best idea before competing in his first Olympic Games. When he arrived a few days later, Tokyo turned out to be quite a different Olympic experience than he had imagined.
“I’m hanging with Nick, playing with Jake, and Rich Lambourne is coaching me,” Bourne said. “I’m walking around all alone. I’m just like ‘This is not what I pictured.’”
“See,” Trevor replied, raising his glass, “good one to skip.”
To which, for the hundredth time of the night, the room erupted in laughter.
These are the types of stories you get when you put a bunch of friends — a group of friends who just so happen to be five of the most talented volleyball players in the United States, and a writer there to enjoy the ride — in a room over what would wind up being two bottles of whiskey and half a dozen beers. You get stories you’ve never heard before. A glimpse into their personalities off the court and away from the camera, only this time, there was a camera, and a microphone.
You get the essence of Drinking Whiskey with the Crabbs. While the show may be forever on pause — their producer moved back to Hawai’i — that bottle of whiskey that Trevor cracked open? The Widow Jane?
“It’s anything but widowed,” Taylor said with a swirl. “It’s alive.”
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