The Art of Punting

Our students took full advantage of their more flexible schedule this Sunday, many navigating the waterways of Oxford with the city’s entertainment staple – punting.

Punts are flat-bottomed boats, propelled along shallow water by pushing against the river bed with a wooden or aluminium pole. Originally used for fishing and transport, punts now exist for warm summer days, good friends, and a generous snack supply. Using the pole is more of an art than a science, and is yet another source of rivalry and contention between Oxford and Cambridge. In Cambridge, punters stand on the raised platform at one end of the boat, while Oxford insists that they stand on the side that is continuous with the passenger area. Believe us, there have been real arguments over this. Certainly, it is much easier to fall into the river when following the Cambridge tradition.

Punting first emerged as a pleasurable activity in the 1860’s, and became widely popular across the country in the early 20th century. It was particularly popular in the all-female colleges of Oxford and Cambridge, being seen as a gentle and dignified way for young ladies to enjoy themselves. According to local historians the Cambridge manner of punting was started by female students of Girton college, who were keen to give a flash of ankle to gentlemen on other boats. Safe to say, this is easier to do when raised up.

The Entrepreneurship major class took the adage ‘a relaxed mind is a productive mind’ to heart last week. They spent one morning at the Magdalen Boathouse, planning while punting. Given the success of their food and drinks stall at the bop, it certainly seems to have worked!