How to Punt like a Pro
You don’t have to go on a formal Cambridge punting tour in order to revel in the pleasures of punting, you can bite the bullet and rent your own punt for a few hours. We will be blunt with you though, it’s not as easy as we make it look! Here are our top tips for making your first self propelled punting voyage a success.
Standing on a punt. Just go for it. Most people will have the balance and coordination to be able to stand on a punt even if it does feel a little precarious at first, it’s all about confidence. The trick is to give yourself a wide stance and to keep your knees bent so that you can adjust your centre of gravity with the movement of the punt. You will want to keep your back foot a bit nearer to your punting side which is generally the right if you’re a righty and the left if you’re a lefty, but it’s all about what feels comfortable.
It’s not about the boat, it’s the motion in the ocean. Or the Cam, and we’re not talking about anything filthy. Obviously the punt is going to move with the water and, as we have suggested, you will need to adjust to those movements. You will need to be relaxed and flexible, if you resist the motion, that’s when you’re going to feel unstable. You may want to try rocking the boat a little with your feet in order to accustom yourself to the sensation.
Using your pole to go forwards. When you’re ready to push off, you need to get used to handling the pole. For the most part, you will be walking your hands, hand over hand, up and down the pole in order to retain control. Start by lifting the pole completely out of the water, using the method described, then, when you’re ready, you can gently slide the pole back into the water until it reaches the river bed keeping the pole close to the side of the punt. When you have made contact with the river bed, walk your hands again as you push the pole against the river floor, this should start the punt moving forwards. When you reach the end of the pole you can carefully draw it out of the water again using the same hand over hand motion.
Using your pole to steer. When punting, your pole takes on the role of both the oars and the rudder so you will need to use it, not just for forward momentum but also, to steer. In steering, the pole works in exactly the same way that a rudder would, simply allow the pole to trail in the water after you have pushed off and direct it to the left or the right in order to compel a change of direction. Once you are used to the way that it works, you can even turn the punt completely around in this fashion, although a punt was originally designed not to need to do that.
How to stop. If you need to stop quickly, say to avoid a collision with a less gifted punter, you need to lift the pole and then slide it into the water in a forwards position, putting your weight behind it. You should grind to a halt and you might even go backwards.