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Crabbin’ Queen

Crabbin’ Queen
WRITER: 
PHOTOGRAPHER: 
March 2019

Tia Clark’s utterly unexpected ascension to AirBnB royalty



Tia Clark at Brittlebank Park, where she often leads crabbing excursions

It was in the summer of 2017—not long after Tia Clark vowed to better her health—that a relative took her out to catch blue crabs. Just like that, she found her calling. And then she turned it into a business, Casual Crabbing with Tia. AirBnB recently ranked her enthusiastic ”Go Crabbing with a Charleston Native” lessons among its top four ”Experiences” in the world. She fills us in.

CM: How did your health transformation come about?
TC:
For 20 years, I smoked. Then I put down the cigarettes and picked up the crab basket. Crabbing became my cigarettes. It also became my gym. The doctor told me to be more active. I didn’t want to go to the gym—I wanted to be outside. Now, I throw a seven-pound cast net for an hour or two a day. I still wear the same belt as when I started the journey, only it wraps one and a half times around my body.

CM: What’s your favorite part of your work?
TC:
Seeing customers’ eyes get big when they pull that first crab up. Imagine going up to a slot machine, pulling the lever, and a thousand dollars comes out— that’s how their faces look. And I get to make that happen for people every single day.

CM: What is it that makes you such an amazing host?
TC:
I’ve worked in food and beverage since I was 17, and I think that experience has a huge play in it. I can read people. I can tell if they’re getting bored right away. The biggest thing, though, is consistency: whether it’s one person, six people, or nine, I’ll be out on the dock setting up as if it’s just me crabbing. Then every day, a person from a different part of the world shows up to crab with me.

CM: How has the whole experience changed you?
TC:
Before this happened, if I didn’t know you, I didn’t want you in my life. I didn’t make eye contact—that was my wall. Now, having gone through all of this life-changing stuff, it feels weird, like something out of a movie. Being happy is so foreign. It’s altered everything I thought I knew about how I should live. Now I want to look at everybody, talk to everybody, get them on the dock. I’m still trying to figure out what’s going on inside.

 

At a Glance:

Lives: In West Ashley with her wife, Katie
Works: As owner of Casual Crabbing with Tia (casualcrabbingwithtia.com) and as a manager and bartender at The Mill in Park Circle
Favorite way to eat crabs: Boiled in a pot with a little beer, hot sauce, and seasonings; check out her YouTube channel for instructions.
Signature tattoo: A regulation-size blue crab tattooed on her calf can be used in the absence of a ruler to make sure a catch is legal.