Last year, the the Void Pro/Am surf contest concluded with an awards party at Surfer the Bar in Jacksonville Beach, as it did the year before. The contest emcees passed out trophies to the top finishers in the grom and amateur divisions, and large, oversized checks to the top pros–a nice punctuation to a spirited event meant to bring the community together. At least, that was the intention.

But, as the team here at Void Mag reflected on last year’s event and took a closer at the impact of those intentions, it was clear something about the event we worked so hard on was glaringly inconsistent with our values.

Photos from the aforementioned awards ceremony tell a story of inequity that has, to be quite clear, long been the norm in professional surfing. Our men’s winner, Cody Thompson–a great surfer and upstanding ambassador for surfing on the First Coast, no doubt–holds high his 1st place check, written in the amount $1250. As does the Void Pro/Am women’s Pro first place finisher, Kayla Durden. Only Durden–who was our reader’s choice for the #1 surfer in the 904 in 2019–held a check worth $1000-less.

That disparity, we decided, cannot stand. Not with so many local women working so hard and surfing so incredibly well.

Scenes from the 2019 Pro/Am, Void’s community surf contest held at each year at the Jacksonville Beach Pier.

In surf contests, prize money is generally dictated by a combination of sponsorship dollars and signups. For far too long, contest organizers have discounted the sponsorship of women’s divisions. Sure, one could argue that there was, for a long time, less women surfers per capita–which would mean less signups on the women’s side. But smaller prize purses also offer less incentive for surfers to sign up in the first place.

But things are changing.

Void’s commitment to equal prize money follows a larger push for parity in professional sports, led by several international organizations, including the World Surf League, which committed to equal dollars for men’s and women’s events at the end of the 2019 season. The US Women’s World Cup team, meanwhile, whose games generate more revenue than those of their male counterparts, brought a lawsuit against the soccer’s national federation in an effort to earn equal pay.  In the W.N.B.A., many teams are profitable despite a dearth of local financial support–like publicly funded stadium improvements (hello Shad Khan’s giant TV screens and swimming pools)–or large corporate sponsorships. Many basketball purists will also argue that the women’s game is a superior demonstration of strategy and fundamentals.

When Void announced its dedication to offering equal prize purses, the publication’s President Tye Wallace expressed that Void has always been a community focused and community supported undertaking, adding that all of the brand’s events aim to uplift the community that supports it. Committing to offering equal prize money for the Void Pro/Am fits with that vision.

“It’s not so much the actual cash amount, but more about the positive messaging that equality brings,” Wallace said. “I want each and every one of the next generation of rippers to have an equal shot at reaching their peak surfing potential. And it should start right here, in their own backyard.”

Still, in order to achieve parity between the Men’s Pro and Women’s Pro prize purses, we needed a sponsor to step up. Luckily, Pete Roesler of locally based digital marketing company Small Business SEO was on board with Void’s goals for the 2020 contest.

“As a father of four children–two being kick-ass girls–I want to make sure my girls have the same opportunities as my boys,” says Roesler. “Everyone that works this hard deserves the financial backing to take their skills to the next level.  I am stoked to have the opportunity to support these kick-ass women and will do so as long as I have the ability.  I surf with these awesome women all the time and they rip. Super stoked to help them encourage other girls to rip as well!”

Thanks to Roesler and many other community focused businesses, this year the Void Pro/am will be putting $7,000 up for grabs ($3.5K for the PRO WOMEN’s Division, $3.5K for the PRO MEN’s division, and $1.5K for the Longboard Pro).

To read more about the Void Pro/Am Click Here to head to our event page. Or click the below to register for the event.

Void Pro Am Surf Contest