Tia never intended to fall in love with crabbing, or launch an experience that her guests have described as “life-changing.” But she did. Learn how her background in food service has helped her earn a perfect 5.0 star rating, and how hosting has transformed her as well.
Tia Clark grew up in Charleston, South Carolina, a picturesque southern town known for its charming architecture, hospitality, and iconic southern cuisine—especially seafood. She started working in the food service industry nearly 20 years ago starting as a dishwasher, and now manages a few local bars.
Then a few years ago, she decided to quit smoking. After nearly two decades of the habit her body developed some negative reactions to the change, so she sought professional help. The doctor advised that she as part of her healing regimen, she should become more active. So when her cousin offered to take her crabbing, she took him up on it. After that first trip, she was hooked.
“We stayed out for like 5 or 6 hours, and I went every day for months after that.” Tia shared. “Maybe it’s because I stopped smoking cigarettes and it was filling that void at the time, but I had to do this thing because it was feeding my soul.”
She was so excited about her new hobby that she posted photos of the day’s catch to social media. This got the attention of her community and customers, who encouraged her to launch her experience.
We sat down with Tia to learn about the long path to her new passion, what her nearly 20 years in the service industry have taught her about hosting a successful experience, and how her guests have affected her.
On launching her experience
The experience started slowly but then things began to pick up, and she saw what her experience was capable of bringing out in her, and the people she was bringing to Charleston’s docks.
“After I got my first two reviews it was like hotcakes…I was like ‘what is happening?’ I’m still managing my bar full time. I felt like I accidentally started a tourism business in one of the most popular tourist cities in the country.
Then magical things started happening on the dock. Being in food [service] for so long, people really can suck. In my head, that’s what I had made up. I didn’t want to let any new people in my life, I’m all full on friends.
Now I go out there on the dock with these people and I have these experiences that I didn’t think you could have with human beings anymore. And every time I get an Airbnb booking it’s like that. Like I have this out of body, spiritual experience. It has literally disproven every single thing I thought I knew about random human interactions.”
While she now shares her passion with travelers from far and wide, she also makes sure she always gets time on the dock for herself.
“Whenever I have a booking I go out an hour before, I set up this “playground” [with all the equipment] like it’s just going to be me, and then every day some different person from around the world comes and crabs with me for a few hours. It’s the same thing every day, but it’s a different experience every time because of the people.
Every single person who comes out on that dock they are ready to go, and they are ready for action. I try to bend over backwards to make sure that these people are having the best time that they can possibly have. It’s something that’s really special to me so it’s not hard for me to put it on for people.”
On what makes a good experience
In Tia’s view, it’s the personal connection that a host has to the activity which leads to powerful connections with guests. And it doesn’t have to be complicated.
You can’t overthink it. To me, we’re just catching a few crabs, but to them, it’s a beautiful experience in a beautiful setting. They don’t want you make it something that it’s not, and it’s already great. That’s why I fell in love with it.
It’s the little things about crabbing that get me excited. Like when people are pulling the little string, I’m excited because I know there’s a crab on the end and I know what they’re about to feel. And then they get the crab and it’s pure joy bursting out of people. So why am I trying to change that? I just need to facilitate them to enjoy what I appreciate.
When people stagger in late it’s hard to meld it because I feel like I’m taking away from one person to catch the other people up. Multitasking is huge. You have to be ready for everything on the fly. [At the bar] we don’t have door guys, my eyes are everywhere.
On the rewards of hosting
Crabbing has become a part of Tia. She even has a tattoo of a crab on her leg to help her measure if what she catches is big enough to keep. But now she knows that sharing this once-private refuge can actually add to her enjoyment, and help her grow. And this feels like just the beginning.
I had in my head [that food service] is what I’m going to do for the rest of my life, I didn’t go to college, this is all I’m going to be able to do to pay the bills, and I can do it very, very well. Being on this platform makes me feel like that wasn’t the end for me.
I have a thirst for life I didn’t have before because of these interactions with people. For someone who didn’t want to interact with people for so long, it’s crazy that interacting with people is what’s building me up again.
I’ve only been on this platform for four months and I could write a book. It’s the happiest time in my life. It’s changing me as much as it’s changing them.