Punting: Slow Motion Carnage

I was in Cambridge a little while ago, and one of the things that Cambridge (and Oxford too, apparently) are quite well known for is Punting. Punting is the act of pushing a small boat along a river (in this case the River Cam) with a giant stick as you stand on the back. Yeah, it is as ridiculous as it sounds. An awful lot of fun, though. We all gave it go, and I was surprised to find it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be. I had no concept of ruddering (which meant that I kept turning the back of the boat out in the wrong direction, often blocking the river), and just when I thought I was getting it, I pushed off, and when I went to pull the pole back up?

Yeah, it'd gotten stuck in the mud, and basically ran through my hands and out onto the river. Have you ever tried punting without a pole? I honestly thought I was going to to have to go swimming. Luckily for me, we got hit by an oncoming punter (which meant we stopped) and we could wait for the current to bring the pole back down.

It was a silly amount of fun. You could clearly see who the pros were (there were guides punting people up + down the river) and who weren't (everyone else). There was a lot of laughing, and big smiles as people hit each other, or tried to navigate past each other unsuccessfully. And it was all very slow, so you knew you were going to hit well before you did. Everyone was very good humoured about it, and would push you out and off you'd go.

It was a silly amount of fun, and if you ever get the opportunity to go punting, do it. Except, don't get one of those tours, get a self-punt. It'll be cheaper for a start (ours was £14 an hour for the boat, shared between 5, rather than £10 each...) and you get to punt. It really is the bulk of the fun.

Have any of you been punting before?