whitewater parks defined

Typical Whitewater Park Design Terms

These terms are often used in the whitewater parks business. Let us know if you are left wondering about a term or phrase—we’ll add it to the list!

Business and Market Analysis: A study that S2o completes that establishes what the market potential for a whitewater park is in a given community including total expected visitorship and the character and demographics of these visitors. We also use research data to establish price point and complementary amenities. Based on this information we create a business and operations model for the client. Our models are very robust and have, without comment, been reviewed by independent as well as state and banking reviewers in preparation for grant and loan funding. Beware of freebie and cheap “general purpose” business models. These are the only whitewater park business models that provide operators and financiers the information that they need, for their project, to make it happen.

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

  1. 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.
  2. Preliminary Design—This phase gets to the heart of the design elements of 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 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.
  3. 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 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.
  4. Construction Documentation—This is the “after-design” phase. Documents are created that help 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.
  5. 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 beautifully and highly functional!
  6. Course Commissioning—The final phase and the one where we finally get to 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!

Economic Impact Study: A study that S2o completes in cooperation with a PhD 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.

EPDUK: S2o’s 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 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!

HEC-RAS Model: 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.

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.

RapidBlocs: The world’s first truly 3-dimensional moveable obstacle system. This innovative system, designed for the world’s most advanced whitewater parks, allows for 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.

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: a park designed specifically to help train rescue authorities in swift water rescue. These parks can hold cars, trees, and platforms in the main flow and can be turned off in an instant if a rescue or scenario becomes dangerous.

2-Dimensional Flow Models: 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 vorticity, turbulence, water surface character, and more.  These models are often less informative and more expensive than creating an actual physical model.

whitewater Park Design: The planning, design, market and business analysis, and creation of construction documents for a whitewater park.