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Why punting is the best Easter term hobby

Nothing says exam term like always being near-disaster

Sometimes in a bad situation, it is better to fully indulge yourself in it than to try and distract yourself. For me, this takes the form of probably the most terrifying and unsafe form of transport-turned-entertainment in Cambridge – punting!


Just as the work piles up and the social life goes down, punting can feel as unstable as your mental state after another all-nighter in the college library. Almost all college punts are extremely narrow and only have enough space for you to stand at the end and shuffle back and forth as you desperately try and stop yourself from capsizing.

person punting

Weaving through the narrow passageways of the Cam (Image Credit: Emily Shaw)

That’s not even including what happens when someone in the punt tilts from one side to the other, with the only thing keeping you dry being your sodden, slippery shoes.

Once you’ve started, you can’t stop

Unlocking the punt is committing to an awful lot – being able to get it going in the first place, build up enough speed to not block the professionals, weave between everyone else on the river and rotate before you either end up in Grantchester or the Jesus Lock. Aside from the ever-present guilt, at least the consequences of failing to study happen in the long-term, rather than immediately being t-boned.

Furthermore, taking a break either requires elaborately pushing the punt to the side of the river and swapping over or taking your chances in the middle of the Cam with the worst possible sea legs. Bit harder than just leaving the library and going to Jack’s.

Constant collisions

Whilst it depends on when you take out the ship, any time around tourism hours is going to mean the river is as heaving with traffic as the roads when you’re trying to get to Sidge in the morning. Reactions vary from the sympathetic to the furious, but either way it can result in you being at the centre of the pile-up blocking the country’s busiest and most oversized lazy river.

people punting stuck in willow tree

Willow trees lurk along the banks, ready to punish anyone who hugs the side for safety (Image Credit: Emily Shaw)

Running straight into your ex or forgetting supervisions are still on is nothing compared to being squished between a rock wall and a punt twice the size of yours!

Forgetting your surroundings

Punting is meant to be one of the best ways to see the sights of a historic and beautiful city, accompanied by the occasional exaggerated fact and splash from the sides.

For what self-hired punts lose in mystique, they certainly gain in creating the student experience of ignoring the architecture and the lore, in favour of trying to remember how to use a pole as a rudder whilst getting twenty splinters on its way down. Of course, that’s if you can see anything whilst stuck underneath one of the many willow tree traps laid out to capture the unsuspecting.


There are two approaches to a punt outing: one involves supporting and caring for each other, adeptly oaring when at ninety degrees to the river, and skillfully grabbing onto the lock up hooks. The second is succumbing to the fear and stress, ultimately leading to the outing falling apart.

person smiling on a punt

In the end, it’s all a bit of fun in a beautiful place (Image Credit: Emily Shaw)

Whilst it is certainly not one-to-one, it may be said that note-sharing, study sessions and even helping with the weekly Mainsbury’s is enough to get oneself safely to land, with a few bumps along the way!

Before you know it, it’ll all be over for another year again, on dry land at last.