by Jamie Rich | November 25, 2019

Editor’s Note: First Place Never Felt so Great

A Jacksonville surf contest shines a spotlight on the national equal pay debate

Jamie Rich, Founder, Publisher, Editor in Chief; Photography by Mary Beth Koeth
Jamie Rich, Founder, Publisher, Editor in Chief; Photography by Mary Beth Koeth

Equality—it’s a word that elicits eye rolls or fist pumps, depending on which side of the equation you’re on. For those facing the inequities, the word represents an aspiration, which can become a force like those we have seen on a national level with major social movements over the past couple of years. For those who still cling to yesterday’s societal norms, change remains uncomfortable but the tide is changing and as professional surfer Kayla Durden said in a recent Florida Times-Union front page story,

“There’s no going back.”

Each quarter when the new issue of Flamingo starts to take shape in our offices, a subtheme emerges that can take precedence over our traditional themes: the Iconic Florida, Travel, Arts and Culture, and Outside issues. During the creation of this winter Outside edition, along with the beautiful places and fascinating Floridians we have featured, that word—equality—and all it stands for stepped out of the pages and demanded a front-row seat, with two separate feature stories on gender and LGBT equality.

Our cover story, A Change in the Tide, on women’s pay equality in surfing, has a personal back story. My two daughters compete in local amateur surf contests. After seeing one of our favorite female professional surfers paid $250 for her first place win, compared to $1,250 won her male counterpart, I took a step to make a change in Northeast Florida and hopefully beyond. 

Flamingo equaled the women’s prize money for October’s WaveMasters Contest, taking it from $5,000 to $10,000, to match that of the men’s purse. It sparked a wave of conversation in our community about whether or not women surfers deserve to be paid the same as men. (My daughter Audrey’s third-grade class even used it as a writing prompt.) The question shocked me considering the debate was not on fact-based sponsorship economics but rather the stereotype around men surfing better than women. The move brought to light divergent mindsets, but it also made a positive impact. 

Other organizations immediately announced they would equalize payouts for future contests and the WaveMasters field of competition deepened for the women’s professional division, with competitors coming in from as far away as California. Not to mention the winner of the event, Zoe Benedetto, had more money to support her development as a pro athlete and fulfill her dream of one day earning a spot on the World Surf League tour.  

Some people, however, remain stuck on the idea that women deserve fewer opportunities to pursue their passion and to reap equal financial reward, across sports, business and civic life. But as the founder of a female-owned and -operated business, I will continue to use Flamingo as a platform to effectuate this change. And I’m hardly alone. This fall, Melinda Gates announced that she is committing $1 billion to “expanding women’s power and influence in the United States.” It’s an exciting time of movement toward gender equality. 

Turn the page to find out what else we have for you in this edition—officially the Outside Issue. You’ll find stories about men and women, gay and straight, black and white, powerful and unpretentious. You just might read something that makes you pump your fist. Whatever the reaction, I hope we leave you inspired. 

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