Surfest's crowd-funding concept will be expanded for next year's women's contest as it moves to establish prizemoney parity with the men's event.
For the past four years, Surfest has used a crowd-funding initiative involving local businesses to sponsor the women's 6000-point qualifying series contest, which was at the 1000-point level in 2015 because of a loss of financial support.
This year, Surfest's women's event offered prizemoney of $65,000 with a first prize of $12,000. The men's contest, also at 6000-point level, had a prize pool of $130,000 with the winner getting $20,000.
The World Surf League has introduced equal prizemoney for women across its events.
Surfest announced on Monday that its crowd-funding model and women's field would expand to offer 12 more places in the main draw, taking the number of surfers to 97, for the 35th year of the carnival.
Under the crowd-funding concept, 97 organisations or individuals contribute $1750 (plus GST) to enter into a November 13 draw to decide the event's naming-rights sponsor. The other 96 entries are drawn one of the competitors just before the event next March. Those drawing the top four finishers receive a cash prize.
Inaugural Surfest women's champion Wendy Botha will be the special guest at the draw, to be held at Newcastle City Hall.
Meanwhile, Merewether's Ryan Callinan is set to start his campaign with Australia at the ISA World Surfing Games in Japan on Tuesday.
Sarah Baum, who lives in Newcastle, is representing South Africa at the contest. She bowed out in repechage round six after a close third in round two of the women's division.