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Pickleball clothes no problem for the women of Newport Beach behind PB & Jelly

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Kristen Ridge and Sue Murphy met last year at a pickleball clinic.

The sport which is described as a mixture of tennis, ping-pong and badminton has grown in popularity in recent years, especially among the older ones. Courts have sprung up in Orange County.

Ridge, 57, whose half-sister, Kathy Mihelic, is a professional pickleball player, began to enjoy the sport. Murphy, 62 years old. Newport Beach residents play on the public courts at Bonita Canyon Sports Park, off MacArthur Boulevard, as well as at the Newport Beach Tennis Club.

However, they never knew what to wear. The tennis clothes are fine, but they wanted something distinct. Pickleball clothing was typically just t-shirts with sayings like: Stay out of the kitchen, referring to the area near the net from which players cannot fly. Don’t go into a pickle is another silly pickleball shirt.

Ridge and Murphy founded PB & Jelly this summer during the coronavirus pandemic. Their business sells pickleball themed hats and visors and yes, PB stands for pickleball.

We wanted to categorize it and get something specifically for pickleball, said Murphy, who trained as a buyer and manager at Nordstrom and taught in the fashion department at Long Beach State for several years. People wear their Lululemon or their tennis gear or whatever, and we wanted a pickleball look.

The merchandise sold well, they said, even though COVID-19 reduced some of their opportunities.

It’s tough in a COVID world, Murphy said. There was a big tournament in Anaheim a few weekends ago, and we could have set up there and sold. But there were no spectators or vendors. Even the street kiosks and things like that, a lot of them got canceled. It’s a little frustrating.

Sue Murphy, right, adjusts her hat as Kristen Ridge waits to start a pickleball game.

Sue Murphy, right, adjusts her hat as Kristen Ridge waits to start a pickleball game.

(Don Leach / photographer)

Mike Fischer teaches sports at Big Canyon Country Club in Newport Beach, and he also teaches private lessons. He said there were reasons pickleball had exploded in popularity.

Men and women tend to play well together, Fischer said. Women tend to beat men quite easily, and 60-year-olds can compete with well-performing 23-year-olds. It is extremely inclusive.

Fischer said that since the sport has grown so much, it gives people like Ridge and Murphy a chance to start businesses like PB & Jelly.

What seems to be happening now is that bigger companies like Wilson, Prince and Head are coming in and buying some of these smaller companies, he said. There are many business opportunities available to people. For them to come up with a clothing line that is popular, there is always this chance that Wilson will say: We love your line and we love bringing it into our business. Or maybe they’ll just run it like a small business and profit from success that way.

Ridge and Murphy, who are educated by Melanie Wheatley on the city courts and at the Tennis Club, have many patrons within their pickleball circle of friends who come together to play games. The group leads about twenty women, and the women are called the Sweet Pickles.

PB & Jelly sells hats and visors for pickleball players.

PB & Jelly sells hats and visors for pickleball players.

(Don Leach / photographer)

Sweet Pickles member Rosemary Cummings of Laguna Beach said she is wearing her second PB & Jelly hat.

They’re adorable, Cummings said. They keep the sun out and they are pretty. Great design, and it’s fun to have some money making friends to support them. Not that any of us say no to such cute stuff.

Ridge said when the city courts were closed some people brought a net and played pickleball at a nearby basketball court.

That’s how addicting it is, she says.

Ridge got so started playing pickleball about 25 hours a week that she was told she needed surgery on her right elbow. She can’t wait to return to the field in November.

When she does, she knows she will have a stylish visor to wear. She helped design it.

We’re having so much fun, she said. Well, go to different tournaments in Tustin, on the San Clemente courts. We meet all these new people and we’re still selling stuff.

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