How to get the most out of punting

Julian Sutcliffe 9 May 2016

"Nice? It's the only thing," said the Water Rat solemnly as he leant forward for his stroke. "Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing—absolute nothing—half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." 

You’ve all thought about it: getting out onto the Cam in glorious sunshine and lying back while you drift down the backs, laughing at all the tourists lapping up the absolute nonsense peddled by punt guides, and just having a jolly good time. But – it is so easy to do punting wrong. Here at last is a definitive guide to making sure youdo the whole extravaganza properly, and don't make a fool of yourself in front of all the other self assured punters, one of whom you’re pretty sure you matched with on Tinder last week. 

1. Take something to drink

This is an absolute must. Whether you’re a decadent Deborah who likes their champagne or a gauche Gerald who settles for cava, you need to have a bottle of something to swig from. Glasses are highly optional, and are really only there if you want to show off. Popping the cork as you go past King’s is essentially obligatory, and you can 100% put the shot on Instagram. Of course, if that’s not your style, lashings of ginger beer is an excellent substitution.

2. Hone your technique 

It turns out some people come to Cambridge having never punted before – mad, I know. Before you take the boat out onto the main river, it’s probably best to have a little push-about at the start. There is no shame in using the pole as a rudder to steer with as well, as long as you keep a hold of it. The classic rookie error is getting the wooden poles, which are as thick and heavy as tree-trunks. They will definitely give you a good workout, but for ease of use and speed of reaction the thinner and lighter metal poles are far superior.

3. Take the correct photos

There is no shame in documenting your experiences via social media. Just make sure you take the right ones. The selfie with King’s in the background? Great. The shot of any bridge – but you know it’ll be the Bridge of Sighs – also great. The water fowl? You got it – great. Make sure you know how ridiculous you are though, and how pretentious all your friends at York think you’re being. Also follow the golden rule of Cambridge social media photos, and only go for one platform at once. 

4. Pick the day

If it’s raining punting is just not worth it. Honestly. Only fun when sunny and hot. 

5. Dress the part

Do you own a Panama hat? A straw boater? Vintage sunglasses? A striped blazer? Now is the time to shine. There are so few circumstances where you can wear such obscene clothing,but the Cam is a glorious equaliser and means that anything becomes okay. As soon as you step onto the punt all the baggage of the last ninety years sloughs away and it’s like we’re in Brideshead again. 

6. Don’t fall in

You may think the only danger of falling in is a dying iPhone. How wrong you are. The river itself is rife with disease and teeming with wildfowl begging to attack you. Hell hath no fury like a swan. It doesn't even need scorning. They’re just awful.

There you have it. So, when you’re bored of work,finished with exams, or just have some time to kill, now you know how to make the best of the river, and how to maximise your enjoyment of Cambridge in summer.

Happy Punting! 

Image Credit: Benutzer:Urs