A promising young Burton SC windsurfer - who is making it her mission to inspire more girls to get afloat - has been crowned the winner of the 2019 RYA Musto Regional Youth Award for the Midlands.

Nieve Ball is one of 11 young talents from across the UK who were revealed as winners at the RYA Dinghy Show in London on Sunday (1 March). The 14-year-old was unable to collect the award in person as she was in Germany as part of a school exchange programme so is set to be presented with the trophy at the Weymouth and Portland National Sailing Academy in May.

The RYA Musto Regional Youth Awards celebrate the achievements of young people in the sports of sailing and windsurfing, whether on the racecourse, volunteering, instructing, coaching or overcoming adversity.

Nieve, who lives in Rocester, is developing as a talented young racer as part of the RYA’s regional Zone Squad programme. But it’s how she, along with some of her Burton windsurfing friends, have really grasped Sport England’s #ThisGirlCan campaign to encourage more girls to get on the water. Calling themselves the Gnarly Northeners, the girls have launched Instagram accounts to document their fun life as windsurfers.

And, over Christmas, Nieve organised an event to bring 16 young windsurfers together, from as far afield as Poole to the south and Hull to the north, to enjoy a day of informal fun, blasting around Foremark Reservoir. The youngsters also used the day as a chance to test out new types of windsurfing kit, including Windfoiling, where the windsurfer skims above the water on a ‘blade’.

Next month, (8-9 April) the Gnarly Northeners are inviting females aged 8-18 to try windsurfing, sailing, Stand Up Paddleboarding, and, if they’re experienced enough, foiling, for free at a special This Girl Can ‘have a go event’ at Burton SC (10am-5pm). If your family is interested in getting involved, please email gnarlynortheners@gmail.com to book your place.

Nieve Ball (right) and her Gnarly Northerner and Burton SC clubmates, Ella Clarke (left) and Ruby Hamilton (centre), along with Notts County's Mollie Spreckley (not pictured), want to inspire more girls to get on the waterNieve says: “If you have an aspiration, don't let anything hold you back. I’m quite shy away from windsurfing, but feel a lot more confident in the windsurfing environment. You feel so much freedom on the water, and you're with your best friends having amazing adventures together. Wherever we've been people always say us northerners are quite gnarly so we set up the Gnarly Northerners to show other girls how amazing a windsurfing life can be."

Nieve got bitten by the windsurfing bug after having a lesson on holiday and discovered the opportunities at Burton SC when she got home. Now she is grateful to her club and, in particular windsurf instructor, Andrea Longley, for nominating her for the award and inspiring her to achieve more than she ever thought she could.

Nieve continues: “The first time I tried windsurfing I enjoyed how the experience differed from any other sports I had done. I always like to be positive and encouraging to myself and others, and I think that’s helped me to progress in the way I have. Burton has provided a comfortable environment to try out new skills and gain knowledge and experience. You get such a buzz being part of this windsurfing community."

Eilidh McIntyre, 470 class World Champion and selected 2020 Tokyo Olympic sailor, said: “Congratulations to all the winners. These young people are doing so much for their communities and the people in their clubs, and they are a true inspiration to us all.”

Emma Jackson, Musto Brand Marketing Manager, added: “Musto are pleased to champion sailing from grassroots all the way through to the upper echelons of the sport through our partnerships with British Youth Sailing and the British Sailing Team. These awards provide the perfect opportunity."

Fancy getting afloat this year? You can! Find your nearest sailing club at www.rya.org.uk, while for more information about the RYA Musto Regional Youth Awards visit www.rya.org.uk/go/youthchampion