In lieu of pickleball's growing popularity, the University of Sanibel has released hats commemorating the sport.
The hats, which come in navy and white, feature Gherki the pickle and are a part of the newly released Gherki Gear line. Ann Runyon Will and Curt Will, the couple behind the brand, plan to launch cinch backpacks, perfect for holding pickleball gear, in the near future.
"Gherki Gear is a division of the University of Sanibel products," Curt said. "We're looking for other products to add to that line. We anticipate the Gherki Gear division to work with clubs and recreation centers to sponsor tournaments and exhibitions."
The hats, which were unveiled on Monday, will be sold at H2O Outfitters, Paradise of Sanibel, The Sporty Seahorse, Trader's Store and Cafe, Suncatch-er's Dream, Bailey's General Store and Bailey's Marketplace at Sundial Resort.
The hat design was done by Doug MacGregor, a nationally-known editorial cartoonist.
Pickleball's popularity is growing so rapidly that the Sanctuary Golf Club has installed pickleball courts, the Sanibel Recreation Center offers pickleball three times a week and Sundial is in the process of installing 12 new courts. There will also be a US Open Pickleball Championship April 23-30 in Naples.
"Many of the 55 and over communities in Florida and elsewhere are building pickleball courts because it's popular with the Boomers," Ann said.
Other new products for this year include tumblers and coffee cups with their logo and a moisture-wicking T-shirt.
"Our whole goal is to not just sell our product, but have a good time," Ann said.
The couple, who are originally from Colorado, are entering their third year in business. After vacationing on Sanibel for a number of years, the duo decided to sell their home in the mountains a year-and-a-half ago and move down to Sanibel.
"We thought it would be terrific to start an island sportswear company but with a twist and, of course, the twist is the University of Sanibel with its pseudo campus," Ann said. "We tell people we gave up skiing and hiking for fishing and boating."
The company offers an array of T-shirts, tank tops, sweatshirts, hoods, shorts, v-necks, polos, hats and bumper stickers.
Many individuals have already attended the University of Sanibel but haven't realized it yet. If you've ever visited the lighthouse pier, searched for the perfect shell, toured the Bailey-Matthews National Shell Museum, visited J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, biked the many scenic paths, golfed on the island, stopped for a turtle or have watched the sunset with sand in your shoes, the Wills consider that good enough for "enrollment."
"As an island community, we're offering something besides boating, golfing and biking and all these people are participating. We're very excited about that," Ann said.
The University of Sanibel gives back to the community by donating to the Sanibel-Captiva Rotary Club's Arts and Craft Fair, The Sanibel-Captiva Lions Club Arts and Crafts Fair and J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge.
Further information and clothing styles can be found at universityofsanibel.com.