Oodles of Noodles
At $2.99 each, neon-colored Funnoodles are spreading faster than ice cream on a hot sidewalk. "We bought 500 of them," says Lynne Yocom, aquatics director of the American Fork Fitness Center in American Fork City, Utah. "When they hit the stores, they're gone in a week."
Noodles were invented as a swimming aid in the mid-'80s by Rick Koster, now 53, a construction consultant in Oakville, Ont., and since 1994 have been mass-marketed by Kidpower Inc. of Brentwood, Tenn. "It was our idea, our product," says a rueful Koster, who never applied for a patent, "but you can't take that to the bank." Even Kid-power had trouble pitching the unsinkable—some say unsightly—foam snakes, but last spring Wal-Mart gave them a try. Since then, millions of Funnoodles have been sold nationwide. For Maggie Thompson, 18, a Nashville swimming teacher who tried using them in her classes, that's quite enough. "I don't know how you teach children to swim with a Funnoodle," she sighs. "They just want to play."