Fluid Modeling

I own and operate an engineering firm in the United Kingdom. Ostensibly, I would be a direct competitor to S2o as I also plan, design, and implement whitewater parks. Instead, however, we tend to partner on projects around the world. S2o’s business model, much like my own, is unique. We are engineering firms that are formulated to fit seamlessly within a larger design team. On many of our projects we team with local site/civil engineers as well as contractors, electrical engineers, architects or whatever the case may bring. Our role—and one that S2o manages very well as well—is to make that larger team stronger and to bring unique expertise in whitewater design.

S2o and EPD worked together on the London Olympic Park located in Lee Valley near London. It was a rush project as, by the time we became involved, construction had already started and design work had lagged. What was needed was a two-part team, one to manage the project from the UK side—going to meetings, understanding client needs, and coordinating deliverables. From the other side we needed hard data and we needed it quickly. We needed computer and physical models that would substantiate our design and design changes. The modeling work provided the hard engineering evidence that would convince the Olympic Development Authority and its stakeholders that these whitewater channels would meet, or exceed, their specifications. As a professional and integrated design team, we needed to get this scheme designed effectively, accurately and quickly.

We hit the ground running and worked seamlessly to create what has been universally called the “best, and most modern, whitewater park in the world”. S2o’s design process, advanced software, and modeling techniques meshed seamlessly with our own such that, though we live on opposite sides of the Atlantic, we were able to collaborate effortlessly. Within three weeks we had created the necessary computer models to show the client that we needed a physical model, within six more weeks we had designed and built the world’s largest physical model ever constructed for a whitewater park. It was a 1:10 Froude Scale model constructed at S2o’s facility in Boulder, CO (USA) and it gave us a place where the British Canoe Union, the Olympic Delivery Authority, and other stakeholders could wade into the future Olympic Channel and measure and evaluate the velocities, the waves, the eddies, and other whitewater characteristics with their own hands. That one model was all it took to move a project from stalemate, to approved design by all parties. Within 12 more months we would paddle on that same course as it was being approved by the International Canoe Federation for competition for the next games. This was a project where the Physical and Computer Models—and the professionalism with which they were made—defined the project.

Andy Laird, MEng CEng MICE MCIWEM, Director, Engineering Paddler Designs, United Kingdom


  • Start with the best design team you can find—one that has completed projects accurately, on time, and to the expected standard. You don’t want to change mid-stream and expect a rush job.
  • All great whitewater parks are team efforts. You need to pick a whitewater design team that works well as a team. The best metric of this is “how many projects have you finished recently?” If they’re getting projects done, they are good teammates.