In the last In Your Element we revealed that Debdale Outdoor Activity Centre's OnBoard graduate, Nicola Stockdale, had achieved the incredible honour of being named 'Young Volunteer of the Year' at the Manchester Sports Awards in October. 

The award, which was presented by Rio 2016 400m runner Kelly Massey, was richly deserved as Nicola, who was 17 in November, completed more than 350 volunteer hours last year alone! This included getting her Dinghy Instructor qualification. We figured it was worth finding out a bit more...

Hi Nicola, wow what a year! So how did you first start sailing at Debdale? 

Thank you so much it means the world. I first started at Debdale in 2013 in the junior club as a windsurfer. I took part in a few Team15 events until it became evident that windsurfing wasn't my sport! Then after about eight months I built up the courage to start sailing and I loved it! I used to think sailing looked boring, but that's mostly because I was scared! However after starting to sail I realised it was very tricky but loads of fun. After a slow nerve racking start, I built my confidence in sailing even more!

Where did you go from there?

Over the next few years, I went through the youth sailing scheme, working to pass all of my stages and also the Seamanship module. As I became a more senior member of the junior club, I took on the responsibilities of showing younger, newer students how to sail, starting my natural progression towards teaching. I started officially volunteering about two years ago, upon completion of my Assistant Dinghy Instructor course. 

You made a massive volunteer commitment at Debdale last year. What were you doing?

I volunteer every week at the Saturday morning Junior club for three hours and running maintenance of the boats in the afternoon. Also during the summer I assisted in the teaching of the multi-activity courses we run at Debdale where the bulk of my volunteering hours were formed from. I also took part in the OnBoard 8-hour regatta at Hollingworth Lake, and continued to help develop the windsurfers at the club as well, accompanying and giving advice to our large team who have participated at Team15 events , as well as helping to lead the junior club along with other assistant instructors from the club. Whilst volunteering I have achieved my AI Certificate, Powerboat Level 2, Safety Boat, First Aid and most recently my Dinghy Instructor qualification.

Any standout moments for you?

Well, I did get to show the Lord Mayor of Manchester how to windsurf on a simulator at one of the open events! As well and winning Manchester Sports Young Volunteer of the Year 2016.

What has volunteering given you? 

Volunteering has really changed who I am and brought me out of my shell. It taught me to be more confident with myself and to be a bit more daring. Personally, I get the satisfaction from working with the Junior club and watching their sailing and windsurfing skills progress and just seeing them having loads of fun. I think something that sailing and windsurfing provide is a family-friendly, unique and fun experience, that is different to any other sport out there. It relies on not just strength but mind power and most of all teamwork.

Do you still find time to sail yourself?

Yes! I currently sail double-handers with my best friend in my favourite boat the club currently has, our Topaz Omega. We are working hard to develop our skills further with the goal of starting racing. We sail almost every week after Junior Club on a Saturday and it's a great way for me to distract myself from all my schoolwork and go and do something out in the open air.

Describe the opportunities being involved in OnBoard has opened up to you.

It's opened up a world of possibilities for me, helping to nurture my sailing skills and allowing me to pursue the qualifications I want to do, whilst also creating a safe, friendly environment I could develop my ability at the pace I needed to. I think all OB graduates should volunteer as not only does it build your own skills and abilities but it helps put back into the clubs that have supported and helped you to that point. It is so satisfying seeing what you're doing as a volunteer is making a massive difference to all of the people at your club.

So finally, what's next?

Hmm, what is next? That is the question! I think I'm going to keep working on my sailing skills so that I can start getting into racing, but also developing my instructing skills further so that I may help more people to learn how to sail and windsurf more effectively!