Learn the whitewater lingo.

We’ve compiled a handy list of all the most relevant terms and phrases that might pop up throughout our website, many of which are specific to the world of whitewater parks.

If there are more phrases that you come across that you don’t quite understand – let us know! Our glossary is always growing, and we’re happy to further explain our processes and terms.

Business and Market Analysis

A study that S2O completes to establish what the market potential for a whitewater park is in a given community, including total expected visitorship and the character and demographics of visitors. We also use research data to establish a price point and complimentary amenities.

Based on this information, we create a robust business and operations model that is evaluated by independent state and banking reviewers in preparation for grant and loan funding. These are the only whitewater park business models that provide operators and financiers the information that they need – beware of free or cheap “general purpose” business models.

Design Phases

The group of tasks required to complete a given study to a certain milestone. Typically design phases on a small-to-medium-sized project would include:

  • Feasibility/Conceptual Design—This is the first must-do part of a project. This phase is tasked with determining whether a particular project is possible and, if so, how it could look and function and what the approximate costs of the project would be. If done right, this part of the project is very powerful as it provides the client with the materials necessary to pursue funding and grants. Deliverables include a report and design documents such as a conceptual design and cost estimate, tasks required to complete a project, and permit requirements.
  • Preliminary Design—This phase gets to the heart of the design elements of the project. If the Feasibility phase is about identifying what needs to be done to complete a project, Preliminary Design is about doing them. It is a phase tasked with completing the necessary actions required to finalize the design functionality and layout and to gather and process the data necessary to undertake the detailed design. Preliminary Design often includes all of the tasks related to preparing for permitting, surveying, creating baseline models, meeting with stakeholders and agencies to define constraints and objectives, and completing design documents to the permitting level.
  • Detailed Design—The detailed design is about getting to the nuts-and-bolts of the project. Now that the project has been defined and adapted to the constraints and objectives laid out in the Preliminary design the project is ready for detailed calculations and modeling. Often the level of computations and modeling is defined by the nature of the project. In some cases, such as the Holme-Pierrepont Whitewater Park, the project can be accomplished with 1-dimensional modeling. In other cases, such as the Calgary Whitewater Park, detailed physical models were undertaken with S2O.
  • Construction Documentation—This is the “after-design” phase. Documents are created that help to define the project for the contractor including all sections, details, specifications and bid items. Often the whitewater park designer will work with the client or the city to step through these processes.
  • Construction Oversight and Inspection—This is the dirty work. In this phase, S2O works with the contractor to build the project to our exacting specifications. Often we have representatives in the field virtually full-time to ensure an accurate build that is aesthetically beautiful and highly functional!
  • Course Commissioning—The final phase where we finally get wet! S2O’s paddling experts get in the water and test the project, often tuning wave characteristics and project features until the project is fully functional and world-class!

Diversion Structure

S2O designs diversion structures for municipal, commercial, and agricultural water supply intakes. We are experienced in the layout and construction of both concrete and native rock structures. We specialize in configuration of diversion structures that efficiently divert the decreed flow rate, while also providing for recreational use and upstream fish passage.

Economic Impact Study

A study that S2O completes in co-operation with a Ph.D. in economics. We study the economics of the region surrounding the park and establish, based on published data (or surveyed data if published data does not exist) what the economic impact of a whitewater park will be to a host community in terms of total dollars, increased tax revenue, increased average incomes, increased jobs, and other pertinent economic metrics.


S2O design partner in Great Britain. S2O and EPDUK partnered together on several projects including the London Olympic Park Project.

Floodplain Analysis

A process that S2O undertakes to understand the effect of a whitewater park on a floodplain at a particular project site. Often the floodplain analysis is conducted hand-in-hand with the project design to minimize or eliminate flooding impacts.

Freestyle kayaking

A type of whitewater competition in which paddlers surf in a wave or hydraulic and perform tricks over a set time period. The paddlers are scored according to style, difficulty, and a number and variety of tricks. Large events such as the Teva Mountain Games, which are held in the Nick Turner (now of S2O) designed pneumatically adjustable play feature can have an economic impact of $3.5 million dollars in a single weekend event!!


A one-dimensional flow model developed by the Army Corps of Engineers to predict flood elevations in rivers. This software has limited applications to Whitewater Design—particularly within floodplains.


In-Channel courses modify the flow of water and create hydrologic features in an existing river or stream bed. These are the most common type of park, and their design and construction is often also the most demanding because the structural integrity of any in-channel structures must be high to withstand constant flow and fluctuation.

Kayak Park

A whitewater park designed specifically for kayaking. Many of the freestyle whitewater parks are custom designed to create waves and play-holes specifically for kayaking.

Physical Model

A Froude scaled model that is hydraulically scaled (using the Froude number relationship) to mimic the behavior of a full-sized river. If done properly, as S2O did for the London Olympic Whitewater Venue, this model can accurately predict wave size, height, and shape as well as depths, velocities, and other pertinent course features.


The world’s first truly 3-dimensional moveable obstacle system. This innovative system, designed for the world’s most advanced whitewater parks, allows for the complete reconfiguration of a whitewater river. The blocs can be used to create, and tune to the nth degree, waves, holes, eddies, jets, and currents. See for more info.

Rapid Courses

A pre-designed whitewater park that can be shipped and assembled on your project site. This park can be completed in three months by an average-sized contractor and provides slalom, freestyle, and recreational kayaking. For more information go to

Raft Park

A whitewater park designed to accommodate commercial rafting. These parks can make millions of dollars in a single year and also host kayaking, and major competitive events such as the National and International Slalom and Freestyle competitions.

River Surf Parks

River surf parks are adjustable waves that are configured to create standup surfboarding features that can be adjusted from beginner to expert level.

Slalom Kayaking

A type of whitewater competition in which kayakers are timed going through a set course of slalom gates (poles hung from wires above the river/channel). Paddlers are timed and scored with the winner posting the fastest time. Large events, such as the 2008 Olympic Team Trials can have as many as 30,000 spectators in a single weekend and can have millions of dollars in economic impact to a hosting town or city.

Swiftwater Rescue Park

Custom-designed swiftwater training canals that optimize the swiftwater training experience in order to create realistic, real life training scenarios including: car in the water, flooded buildings, and deadly low-head dam scenarios.

2-Dimensional Flow Models

These are flow models, such as River 2d, that S2O creates to show the nature and distribution of flows. Flow 2d models are often useful for establishing fish passage by adjusting the design to meet flow criteria established with permitting authorities.

3-Dimensional Flow Models

Flow models such as Fluent or Flow 3d that use computational fluid dynamics to compute virtually every characteristic of the flow including velocity, turbulence, water surface character, and more.  These models are often less informative and more expensive than creating an actual physical model.