Posted by: Tommy | September 16, 2011

Headline: Thompsons Dominate International Crab Racing Circuit

Here at the Dolphin Bay Divers Retreat, there are two popular activities.  Diving, obviously.  And crab racing.  The Rainbow Reef in Taveuni offers some of the best diving in the world, which is the main attraction here.  The crab racing is a close second.

We’d never heard of crab racing but it turns out that we’re both fantastic at it.  The Dolphin Bay International Crab Racing competition takes place during Happy Hour at the bar here.  Wilson, the dive master, collects hermit crabs from the beach and places them in a small margarine container.  The guests, plus some of the staff, each pick out their chosen crab – you choose by color, size, fiestiness inside the bucket, or dump them out and just see which one runs away fastest.

During the first Crab Race, there were 8 crabs competing.  I named mine Crabula, Sarah’s was Pee Wee and Anna’s was Wiggles.  Other crabs competing included Wilson’s Axe Man, Zoe (staff member) with Flash and Robert (German guy who knows the owner and was just stopping by) with Speedy Gonzalez.

The coliseum for these modern-day gladiators is a flat board with a circle painted on it.  The margarine tub full of crabs is dumped upside down in the center.  The crabs are given a moment to right themselves, then the lid is lifted.  The crowd goes wild, screaming the name of their chosen competitor at full volume.  The first crab to get outside of the circle is declared the winner for that race.

Photo finish on this race.

Wiggles (Anna) won the very first race and proceeded to edge out Speedy Gonzalez with 4 victories in 8 races.  Speedy had 3 wins while Axe Man won the other race.  My crab (Crabula) rarely moved from the starting blocks – never even coming close to the circle’s edge.   To the victor went the spoils – a fantastic trophy, filled with the bar drink (on the house!) of her choice – Anna opted for a passion fruit – rum concoction that was pretty tasty.

Zoe and I talked a lot of trash during the match, so Wilson decided that there would be a rematch the next day.  Anna and Sarah had already signed up for an island tour and Robert had gone home, so the path was clear for me to win the rematch.  Wiggles wouldn’t be competing (I threw him in the ocean to prevent his reappearance – that little guy could run!) so I knew I had a shot.

Between dives the next morning, I was scouring the beach, looking for my champion.  I picked up several crabs and made them run on the table, but none were good enough.  And then I saw the biggest hermit crab of my life.  I picked him up to inspect him – and he pinched my finger.  I dropped him in surprise, then picked him up again – another hard pinch.  He’s a fighter!  I grabbed a new tub from the kitchen and stowed this crab away – Goliath would be his name.  It was 10am and the crab race was scheduled for 5 pm – would 7 hours in a tub deplete Goliath’s strength or make him ready to get the hell back to the ocean? Only time would tell.

Goliath, the champion racing crab, and Tommy, his trainer.

Goliath sat on Zoe’s desk all day, taunting her with his colossal strength.  She took a different tactic and opted for a tiny crab named Star.  Wilson, Wilson’s dad Loi, Minasa (another divemaster) Kristoff and Selda (new German guests) and Cecilia (American guest) all competed, along with Zoe and I.

I was a bit worried during the first race of the second day, when Charlie (Selda’s crab) started out hot and won the first two races.  But then Goliath turned it on and proceeded to win 5 of the next 8.  His huge legs trod over anything in his path and his giant shell kept the other crabs from passing him.  All the time in the margarine tub must have made him long for the ocean – no matter which direction he was pointing to begin, Goliath always made a beeline for the water.  Once, he ran past the other crabs backwards, lapping them although they were running forward.

After 10 races, Goliath led 5-4 against Charlie, with Minasa’s Mobby picking up the other victory.  Wilson decided that (since he hadn’t won a single race) the first 10 was merely the quarterfinals.  We’d need to run another 10 races as the semis, then another 10 as the finals.  And if anyone wanted to change crabs, that would be allowed – he knew they couldn’t keep up with the massive Goliath.  Wilson and Kristoff ran off to find new crabs – and came back with two that rivaled Goliath in size.  Kristoff named his The Beast – a fitting name – while Wilson inexplicably went with Shiny.

But neither could compete with Goliath.  He rode to victory 4 times in the semis and another 4 in the finals – once with Charlie clinging to his leg.  Charlie ran out of steam, winning only twice in each round.  The Beast did ok, with 3 victories in each round, with Mobby also a contender.  After three rounds, Goliath led with 13 victories; the next best crab had 8.

Goliath was clearly going to be the champ, but we had 20 minutes before dinner, so Wilson instituted an obstacle round.  Sand was piled on the course – including a large mound of it directly in Goliath’s favorite path.  He made a valiant effort, but his preferred method of brawn over brains doomed him to try crossing the mountain each time.  Goliath would only win one obstacle race, trying (and failing) to summit the mountain each time.

When 40 races had been run, Goliath was crown the champion and the Dolphin Cup stayed in the family, this time filled with vodka tonic.  There are no more crab races during our stay in Taveuni, so Anna and I will each retire as champions – legends in the sport of crab racing.

It seems unfair that the winning crab does not also receive a trophy or free drink. Rumors of a lockout are currently unfounded.



  1. Hilarious. Personal favorite: that you actually wrote 1000 words on crab racing. Honorable mention: “Rumors of a lockout are currently unfounded.”

  2. AND I won coconut bowling the next night (championship round between me and Tommy out of 8 people)! Dolphin was happy to see us go; they didn’t really like giving out all those free drinks!

  3. You sure do love a competition Tommy!

  4. Too, too funny! Glad to see neither of you have lost your competitive spirit during your travels! Did you get to keep the trophy?

  5. This is one of the funiest blogs! It reminds me of the time UBE and I had similar races (around 1980) at the beach in Port A…only we were racing Lady bug???. I got rid of UBE’s champ,too.
    Stay safe & God bless, XOXOXO Kita

  6. Everything is a competition. Congrats to both of you for your amazing victories.

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