What do you do after winning three overall World Cup kayak slalom championships, three World Championship silver medals, and competing in three Olympics? If you’re Scott Shipley, you keep making waves.
Shipley's doing that aplenty these days, leaving his mark by turning destination towns throughout the country, and world, into bonafide paddling venues as founder and president of S2O Design, based in Lyons, Colorado. His river park pedigree is as decorated as his competitive dossier.
With a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology, he retired from full-time competition to help design the $37 million U.S. National Whitewater Center in Charlotte, North Carolina, which opened in 2006. He later launched out on his own to found S2O, patenting Rapidblocs—plastic structures that can be moved around to create different rapids. Rapidblocs were utilized in the London Olympic Whitewater Park in 2012, the Olympic whitewater course in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016, and, most recently, the $45.2 million, Riversport Rapids Whitewater Center on the Oklahoma River in Oklahoma City, an official Olympic Training Center that helped entice the Paddlesports Retailer trade show to host its show there for three years. They’ll also be utilized at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
But pumped parks aren’t their only application. The moveable rapid-makers are also now finding their way into in-stream river parks as well, most recently at the new Eagle River Park in Eagle, Colorado, which hosts its grand opening this spring; and in soon-to-be-completed Phase II of the Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation Boise Whitewater Park in Boise, Idaho. They’ll also be used on a park he’s designing on the Arkansas River in Cañon City, Colorado.
“They’re a game changer,” says Shipley, who does this all while juggling a busy family life back home in Lyons. “They let you re-configure rapids to suit different purposes, from surfing and slalom to commercial applications.”
Colorado Most Recent Benefactor
While working on river parks in Cañon City on the Arkansas River and Fort Collins on the Poudre River, S2O’s crown jewel in Colorado could well be the new Eagle River Park, set for its grand opening this spring.
With the first phase of the park opening last spring, which included features three and four on the downstream portion of the park, this past fall and winter's construction will complete in-stream features one and two, as well as such bankside improvements as an amphitheater, pathway, park and more.
"It's going to be an amazing park," says Shipley. "It's our first project using our adjustable Rapidbloc technology in an instream park. It will let us easily fine-tune the features however we need to, which will be great."
The whitewater park will feature four new waves, as well as eddies and chutes that are fun to tube and float during low water times, but that will gain in size and power as the flows increase. At higher flows it will feature waves for kayakers and suppers to surf. The features and park area will also be ideal for competitions and festivals, perhaps even alluring enough for the nearby GoPro Games in Vail to consider hosting an event or two there.
"It's a great site selection that matches the river's natural morphology and takes advantage of the existing river channel well," says Shipley. "It also creates a great gateway to Eagle. People driving by used to look at an old truck stop here; now they get to see a great river park."
Funded by the town of Eagle (in 2016 voters approved a 0.5% sales tax to fund a variety of park and trail improvements including this project), various matching grants and even local brewery Bonfire Brewing (whose sponsorship secures the naming rights for the eastern firepit that serves as a central hub for the park), the project is nestled along the Eagle River near the Eagle County Fair and Rodeo Grounds, and Chambers Park, where once a dirt lot, fencing, and semi-trucks served as the gateway to the community. The Park is a central part of the Eagle River Corridor Plan established in 2015.
"The Eagle River Park has been on the wishlist of boaters and residents for decades," says Town of Eagle Trustee Matt Solomon. "This amenity will truly connect the soul of the river to the heart of our valley."
Adds Bonfire Brewing owner Andy Jessen, who's also on Eagle's Board of Trustees: "Watching this park come to fruition as a trustee, citizen, and business owner has been perhaps the most gratifying experience I can recall during my ten years here. There was never a question of if we would directly support making it a reality—just when, and how."
The park's first two features, which are designed for intermediate to advanced paddlers, also have a bypass channel aligned next to them that will allow boaters and tubers to bypass these first two features to the left. The bypass channel provides a calm route around the largest of the four features and also creates a pathway back upstream for fish migration.
"The project has been a successful collaboration between the town, S20, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers, our construction team and countless others,” says town of Eagle Marketing Manger Jeremy Gross. “The knowledge and experience from all of these groups has made it a smooth project considering the extent of the undertaking."
And no one is more excited about the project's completion than local paddlers. "This park is going to make a huge, positive impact on Eagle as well as all the other nearby river corridor communities," says former pro kayaker and standup paddler Ken “Hobie” Hoeve. "The features are perfect for surfing, standup paddling and kayaking — the park is going to put Eagle on the map as a great paddling destination."