What Is A Punt?
A punt is a flat bottomed boat that does not have a keel. Typically, a punt is 6 to 8 m long and about a metre wide. A pole about 5 metres long pushes against the river bed to move and steer the punt. This method of propulsion is known as punting. Using a paddle to move along does not qualify!
There’s more to punting than pushing a pole. The basic techniques seem rather simple and you might learn in half an hour. But to master the technique takes longer. To punt without losing your balance, getting wet, or wetting your passengers, does take practice.
The oblong punt originated as a simple barge – a river wheelbarrow for transporting all kinds of materials. In early days the operator dropped the pole to the bottom, leaned on it, and then ran the length of the punt, pushing the deck under his feet. It was a method that often left the novice clinging to their pole while the punt drifted away on its own.
In the 1880's punts became recreational. Passengers lounged in luxury, sheltering beneath parasols. “Running the punt” became impractical, and the Oxford method developed. The punter stands on a platform at the stern and skilfully pushes backwards on the pole. The pleasure punts of today flourish at Cambridge and Oxford on rivers protected for them in England. In New Zealand you will find punts on the Avon River in Christchurch and also in Nelson.