TRAINING TIPS: Punting in Canoes

This is one of our most popular and biggest events of the regatta, with entrants of all ages, experience levels, and fancy dress! All in all, one of the most entertaining yet competitive events over the 2 days of the regatta.


Getting Started

Firstly (and probably most importantly), if you have never punted before we would highly recommend that you learn the techniques in a punt before you have to think about stepping into (and falling out of!) a canoe, and make sure you or your partner are comfortable steering. If you come to the WSR training days there will be experienced punters around who will be happy to help you get started. See more details here.

When you are standing in the canoe there is a strong possibility that you may go swimming and even the best punters fall in on occasion. As long as the canoe is moving forwards the stability will be easier to maintain, just like on a bicycle. If you feel the canoe wobble then get the pole in the water and preferably on the river bed to act as a stabiliser. If it waves around in the wind, so will you!

What it's supposed to look like
What’s supposed to happen

Always push together. Count or shout together, as silly as you may feel the more coordinated you are with your partner, the better (and drier) you’ll be. If your pole gets stuck in the mud, twist or (last resort) let go! Don’t just pull, that will more than likely have both you and your partner swimming. Push your shins against the crossbars in the canoe to gain stability if you feel you need it.

The Big Questions

There are a few things that come down to preference, and where opinions differ.

Boards or no boards seems to fall to the individual as do shoes or no shoes. Some find the grip in the boat easier, and others find that they can flex their feet more without.

And the age old debate around punting on the same or different sides. This ultimately depends on your partner and which side you both punt on. There is one theory that if you punt on the same side then the keel of the boat stays on a level plain and is easier to balance, but obviously the edge of the canoe is much closer to the water’s edge. If you punt on different sides then the canoe will stay more upright, but if you are not in time then the keel of the boat will be off kilter and you will rock the boat.

What often happens
What often happens


Pole and Position

  • Stay in the boat (it’s a balancing act)!
  • The longer your pole is pushing on the bottom of the river, the more stable you will be.
  • Throw the pole down as quickly as you can to help with stability and allow you to push hard.
  • Throw the pole down just in front of your front foot to allow you to have a good shove when the pole hits the riverbed.
  • Keep your upper body leaning slightly out of the boat when the pole has hit the bottom and push as hard as you can.
  • Practice makes perfect!

Punting in Pairs

Who goes where?

  • The taller or bigger person tends to do the steering and stands in the stern (back) in the boat (also so you don’t get hit in the back of the head by your teammate)
  • In terms of positioning in the boat, this is all about balance and where feels best.

The punting part

  • Timing is a vital component to punting together. Counting when you throw down the pole helps with this.


  • Small movements are best.
  • To go right – It’s all about the angle, throw the pole down under the boat (towards you) and lean out of the boat to bring the boat round to the right.
  • To go left – throw the pole down and as you push, pull the pole across your body.

Getting to the race start

  • Remember to give yourself plenty of time to get to the start.
  • Go up the bank side and remember it is often muddy in parts. If you get stuck in the mud, twist the pole as you pull it up. If it’s really stuck, let go!
  • If other races are coming down the river with big wash from the umpire boats, turn the bow (front of the boat) into the wash and bend your knees. Watch out for the wash coming back off the bank too.