End of a dream?

Inland paddling
Post Reply
BobbyR
Posts: 46
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:25 pm

End of a dream?

Post by BobbyR » Mon Nov 20, 2017 1:06 pm

There are probably not many members who are directly affected by this but I thought I would post this as it presents some interesting points for discussion.

After more than 10 years since it opened the Netherlands Whitewater centre, DutchWaterDreams is to be demolished as the new owners have found it will not return a profit. See link in Dutch.
http://www.watersportverbond.nl/nieuws/ ... oetermeer/

DWD closed two years ago after it was discovered that the building, which housed the indoor surfing, café, cashier and changing rooms, was structurally compromised due to corrosion. The enforced closure meant that there was no income and DWD was effectively bankrupt (for the second time if I remember correctly). A new owner was found but they knew nothing of whitewater sports and actually planned to convert it into an Asian-Arabian theme park, turning the course into a water-ride for kids. Apparently part of the purchase deal was that the WW course had to remain open. There was also a British bidder at the time who as unsuccessful.

The Dutch National Watersport Association (WSV) had managed to open the WW course themselves for a few short weekend sessions earlier this year to demonstrate its viability but it had limited effect. There are efforts to stop the demolition but it is not clear if the local authorities and WSV have enough influence. Bear in mind that the nearest similar course is Augsburg or Lee Valley.

DWD is a near-direct copy of the Beijing Olympic slalom course and apparently cost 32 million euros to build and was sold to the new owners for only 1.26 million euros! As well as slalom, there was also commercial rafting and indoor surfing. It is a pushy class 3/4 course and totally unsuitable for beginners/novices. They found that when 3 of the 5 pumps operate the WW course starts to overtop in places and with 4 pumps running it floods.

There are a few lessons (probably many more):
1. The facility was built to train olympic standard slalom canoeists yet the production of ‘intermediate’ standard slalom canoeists is very limited in the Netherlands. It was always going to have a very small domestic market and a dual track course with a second lower grade track would have possibly been more appropriate.
2. Hire competent designers. Although it was a straight copy it did not seem to make it cheap. I heard a story (though it could be rubbish) that they took the inside dimension of the course and used them as the outide dimensions thus reducing the conveyance. I also heard a story that during the official opening one of the visitors happened to be a structural engineer who pointed at the steel work in the building and commented that it would corrode due to the lack of proper protection. Even if those two stories are only partially true they are quite damning. I would love to hear from the original project team whether any of this is true.
3. If a WW course is to be in private hands then it needs a realistic and modest business plan.

I don’t think these are ground-breaking lessons and Lee Valley and Pinkston already show what can be done. Still I would like to hear about how the UK courses were developed and whether they are really financially self-sustaining and how they are financed, owned and managed?

twopigs
Posts: 1314
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 2:55 pm
Location: Stroud & Cheltenham
Has thanked: 2 times
Been thanked: 5 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by twopigs » Mon Nov 20, 2017 2:37 pm

IIRC Nene Whitewater Course was struggling a few years after opening - but well before Lee Valley opened.
Canoeing - bigger boat, broken paddle, more skill!

Rae1
Posts: 157
Joined: Mon Jul 20, 2015 9:48 pm
Been thanked: 2 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by Rae1 » Mon Nov 20, 2017 4:51 pm

I go to Nene regularly, and cannot see how it even breaks even. On Tuesday nights there can be as little as 5 people there (£8 each). The most I have seen there on a Tuesday is around 30. There was one Sunday last year where there were about 70 people, but that was an exception, it is usually 30 people on a sunny day, put in some rain and cold, and it's back to single figures.
Cardiff too, their pumps must cost a lot to run. 40 people on a Sunday is only going to cover the pump costs.
HPP is the only one that should be able to cover its costs, being as it doesnt use pumps to get enough water.

Yew
Posts: 484
Joined: Wed Jul 20, 2011 8:26 pm
Has thanked: 1 time
Been thanked: 4 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by Yew » Mon Nov 20, 2017 6:06 pm

Indeed, this certainly highlights the utility of a legacy/back channels style course, especially when the course is of class 3/4, and much less accessible to beginners to kayak on

KaitsuH
Posts: 28
Joined: Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:30 am
Been thanked: 1 time

Re: End of a dream?

Post by KaitsuH » Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:20 pm

Hi! People are here talking about class 3/4 artificial courses! Where in earth can I find a artificial white water course difficulty near class 4? I am very interested in.

User avatar
John K
Posts: 559
Joined: Mon Sep 02, 2013 7:23 am
Location: Brighton
Been thanked: 8 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by John K » Tue Nov 21, 2017 2:39 pm

Any of the Olympic courses for a start.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of ... er_courses

User avatar
Adrian Cooper
Posts: 9720
Joined: Thu Apr 25, 2002 2:26 pm
Location: Buckinghamshire
Has thanked: 1 time
Been thanked: 13 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by Adrian Cooper » Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:35 pm

KaitsuH wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:20 pm
Hi! People are here talking about class 3/4 artificial courses! Where in earth can I find a artificial white water course difficulty near class 4? I am very interested in.
I've always advised people not to attach grades to weirs since they do not necessarily function in the same way as 'normal' rivers for which the grading system was designed. Artificial courses can fall into this category and you will often hear people complaining about excessively turbulent eddies, boily water and sticky stoppers. So if you are looking for a grade 4 course you just have to accept a course which is at about that level of difficulty and I'm going to suggest the Lea Valley course is about there albeit you can just plough straight down the middle with no inspection which would normally grade it at 3?

User avatar
davebrads
Posts: 1813
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2002 11:42 pm
Has thanked: 2 times
Been thanked: 4 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by davebrads » Wed Nov 22, 2017 2:51 pm

Adrian Cooper wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:35 pm
KaitsuH wrote:
Tue Nov 21, 2017 12:20 pm
Hi! People are here talking about class 3/4 artificial courses! Where in earth can I find a artificial white water course difficulty near class 4? I am very interested in.
I've always advised people not to attach grades to weirs since they do not necessarily function in the same way as 'normal' rivers for which the grading system was designed. Artificial courses can fall into this category and you will often hear people complaining about excessively turbulent eddies, boily water and sticky stoppers. So if you are looking for a grade 4 course you just have to accept a course which is at about that level of difficulty and I'm going to suggest the Lea Valley course is about there albeit you can just plough straight down the middle with no inspection which would normally grade it at 3?
Artificial courses are not that different to rivers running through rocky gorges, these also have sticky stoppers and boily recirculating eddies. Also ploughing straight down Lee Valley is not easy, the stoppers are very stiff and it takes a paddler of reasonable skill to make it through all of them without getting caught out. I think it is fair enough to class Lee Valley as a 4, the differences being that you are in a benign environment compared to a normal whitewater river and you can be confident that there aren't any unseen obstructions or keeper holes.
it's not a playboat, it's a river runner

User avatar
DaveBland
Posts: 3657
Joined: Mon Jul 19, 2010 10:01 pm
Location: Calgary Canada
Has thanked: 4 times
Been thanked: 12 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by DaveBland » Wed Nov 22, 2017 3:07 pm

Agree with Dave Brads. What makes artificial courses 'easier' isn't that they are easier to paddle, but the fear of the unknown/uncertain is removed, making you paddle better.

And for the record, The Augsburg course ain't easy.
dave

User avatar
Jim
Posts: 13889
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2002 2:14 pm
Location: Dumbarton
Has thanked: 7 times
Been thanked: 41 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by Jim » Wed Nov 22, 2017 11:26 pm

Artificial courses suffer from that age old problem of familiarity downgrading - because a lot of people run them very regularly they can easily become blind to the real difficulties, perhaps even more so because they run them very frequently and the consequences of a bad swim are that you flush into the pool at the end and have a short walk to a warm shower.

I haven't paddled Lee Valley yet, the Olympic course looks like a lot fun with some chunky drops which I reckon you would want to stop and at least scout from the boat if you came accross them on a river trip.

HPP and Teeside are a little easier probably around grade 3 - I have paddled both of these in the last month or so and can't say I had an easy time at either.
Teeside I found particularly difficult in my C1, and actually the water there is dark enough to hide some of the obstacles, I did take a swim, or was it 2? The water kept pushing me away from where I wanted to be and the eddies finished me off. It was much better in kayak but I was still struggling to get the lines I wanted, although straight down the middle would have worked.
HPP is even more intimidating (it has some big drops these days, fortunately they are fairly friendly) and forced me to put in some of the best C1 paddling I have ever done - breaking in on a cross bow just above the muncher needing to get far enough out to catch the curl but not drop into the hole is a serious move. I didn't have any swims (probably too scared of getting ill), and come to think of it I probably also put in my best kayaking for a long time or ever, certainly my best result in kayak ever.

I paddle Pinkston far too frequently to gauge how difficult it is, I have noted that it is pushier than it looks though.

BobbyR
Posts: 46
Joined: Wed Aug 13, 2014 6:25 pm

Re: End of a dream?

Post by BobbyR » Thu Nov 23, 2017 1:14 pm

In reference to my original post, can I ask who are the owners of the whitewater courses in the UK and how was the construction financed?

User avatar
Jim
Posts: 13889
Joined: Sun Apr 21, 2002 2:14 pm
Location: Dumbarton
Has thanked: 7 times
Been thanked: 41 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by Jim » Thu Nov 23, 2017 1:58 pm

I don't know that any one person would know the answer to that, you will need to contact each operator and ask them.

Pinkston Watersports is a charity but there are several stakeholders including Scottish Canals and the council (presumably Glasgow City), I think it is now making a small profit which they are re-investing in equipment and infrastructure. But you would need to contact the centre for details.
It is important to understand that this centre was built to provide opportunities in a deprived area of the city rather than being built for a particular sporting event. The site includes flat water training areas with polo pitches, classrooms and storage in addition to the pumped course and attracts a wide range of users including triathletes, open water swimmers and emergency services.
I beleive EPD worked out the business plan as part of the design, and I know the centre were right on track for breaking even after 3 years as predicted.

If the Dutch course was a direct copy from Beijing you probably have some of the reason for failure right there. Unless the ground and environmental conditions happen to be identical it will always be necessary to re-engineer any construction project if you want to replicate it successfully on another site.
A classic example would be Safestore who came up with a standard design for the their storage warehouses, they built one in Scotland where the wind and snow loading requirements are higher and had to install a lot of additional pillars to pass the Scottish building standards, the result is that some of the storage rooms are useless for storing large items because they have a pillar right in the middle of them. I have no idea if they learned from this and went to bespoke designs or if you will find examples of this at random locations throughout the UK where the design wind loads are higher than the standard building was designed for (this only applies warehouses they had built, they also bought up a lot of existing warehouses which will all be different).

SimonMW
Posts: 2194
Joined: Sat Jul 24, 2010 11:39 pm
Has thanked: 1 time
Been thanked: 7 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by SimonMW » Thu Nov 30, 2017 2:22 pm

I go to Nene regularly, and cannot see how it even breaks even. On Tuesday nights there can be as little as 5 people there (£8 each). The most I have seen there on a Tuesday is around 30. There was one Sunday last year where there were about 70 people, but that was an exception, it is usually 30 people on a sunny day, put in some rain and cold, and it's back to single figures.
Whilst it might be putting money into a black hole, Nene needs some serious redevelopment. When it's catchment area includes people who could go to Lee Valley or HPP, I can't see who would want to go there. I went a few months back, and other than the 'big' drop, which is far more sticky than it really should be(!) the place needs gutting and a whole revamp similar to the Tees Barrage course done on it. The features are generally so small as to be almost flat, narrow beyond belief, and the pumps keep breaking down.

While a redevelopment costs money, it would be good for the area, and would actually attract people to it rather than making them stay away or go somewhere else as it currently does.
Cardiff too, their pumps must cost a lot to run. 40 people on a Sunday is only going to cover the pump costs.
HPP is the only one that should be able to cover its costs, being as it doesnt use pumps to get enough water.
Cardiff's pumps do cost a lot, but they operate at a small profit through being quite savvy. It costs £500 an hour to run those pumps (probably more now), but Cardiff usually has a lot going on with a lot of raft groups of all ages, flat water coaching for total beginners, the indoor surfing, and the high ropes. As well as income/rent from the cafe and kayak shop. There are also those who pay yearly memberships. But if we go back to the rafts for a moment, quite often, especially in the summer (but sometimes even in the winter) you can have four, or even five rafts going round at the same time pretty consistently all day. With each raft consisting of 6 adults, that would be going on £1000 per raft for three rafts, and then any kayakers going round would be icing on the cake, on top of their other income.

It is notable that Cardiff paid off it's construction loans ahead of time. But things are still tight. Tees has things right, using mainly tidal flow and then pumps when needed. Makes it interesting since the course can be completely different from one run to the next! And that drop on the 2nd course there is epic!

User avatar
andypagett
Posts: 238
Joined: Sat Mar 24, 2012 11:38 am
Location: Chesterfield
Has thanked: 15 times
Been thanked: 4 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by andypagett » Thu Nov 30, 2017 5:24 pm

SimonMW wrote:
Thu Nov 30, 2017 2:22 pm
other than the 'big' drop, which is far more sticky than it really should be(!)
Tell me about it. Swam out of that on my lunch break on my L2 training there. There was some sort of boat show on, so I went to demo a Machno, but the only thing left was a playboat which was way too big for me. I remember being upside trying to roll with bugger all connectivity to the boat, and popping up with my course mates laughing at me. Great day.

twopigs
Posts: 1314
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 2:55 pm
Location: Stroud & Cheltenham
Has thanked: 2 times
Been thanked: 5 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by twopigs » Fri Dec 01, 2017 5:46 pm

BobbyR wrote:
Thu Nov 23, 2017 1:14 pm
In reference to my original post, can I ask who are the owners of the whitewater courses in the UK and how was the construction financed?
I think the Nene WW Course was financed by Lottery money. It is home to a canoe club and a rowing club - but no longer the novelty it was in the early 2000s ..... But who "owns" it????? Probably a charity!
Canoeing - bigger boat, broken paddle, more skill!

User avatar
davebrads
Posts: 1813
Joined: Sun Feb 24, 2002 11:42 pm
Has thanked: 2 times
Been thanked: 4 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by davebrads » Sun Dec 03, 2017 2:59 am

HPP is a mutual company run by Serco. I don't know the details of how it was financed, but a large proportion came from lottery funding while at least some money came from the BCU who raised some money from donations by members. It is clearly quite well used by canoeists, though slalomists probably form the majority, especially during the week. It is under-utilised on Monday and Friday evenings though, quite often attendance will be in single figures on these evenings. A lot of the slalomists are from the local club which has been boosted of late by the setting up of a TID (talent identification) group funded by British Canoeing from their Sport England funding. It is also good enough to attract paddlers from slalom clubs over a wide area.
it's not a playboat, it's a river runner

Jerry Tracey
Posts: 56
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2011 12:10 pm
Been thanked: 1 time

Re: End of a dream?

Post by Jerry Tracey » Sun Dec 03, 2017 11:10 am

Tees has things right, using mainly tidal flow and then pumps when needed.
The pumps at the Tees Barrage can also reverse to generate power when tidal conditions and river flow are favourable. I don't know details of the energy use/generation balance, but this clever innovation doubtless helps with economic viability. It also makes Tees slightly less dubious on environmental grounds than some other pumped artificial courses.

TheEcho
Posts: 108
Joined: Wed Mar 04, 2015 5:11 pm
Location: Essex
Has thanked: 4 times
Been thanked: 10 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by TheEcho » Sun Dec 03, 2017 7:12 pm

SimonMW wrote:
Thu Nov 30, 2017 2:22 pm
Whilst it might be putting money into a black hole, Nene needs some serious redevelopment. When it's catchment area includes people who could go to Lee Valley or HPP, I can't see who would want to go there. I went a few months back, and other than the 'big' drop, which is far more sticky than it really should be(!) the place needs gutting and a whole revamp similar to the Tees Barrage course done on it. The features are generally so small as to be almost flat, narrow beyond belief, and the pumps keep breaking down.
It has a small niche as an introduction to whitewater for beginners, and so our club books it fairly often. It is much less intimidating than LV legacy and so it is a training venue for that. Once folk have passed their legacy assessment they go there instead for independent paddling, and the customers are lost. Apart from some folk who are permanently put off whitewater due to smacking their face on the concrete in the narrow bits - proportion of minor injuries seems much higher than LV.

I saw a raft at the Nene once. It looked more like a theme park ride on rails as it barely fitted on the course and couldn’t really manoeuvre. Dismal...

SimonMW
Posts: 2194
Joined: Sat Jul 24, 2010 11:39 pm
Has thanked: 1 time
Been thanked: 7 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by SimonMW » Mon Dec 04, 2017 11:32 am

Spot on. HPP also has lots of merit due to the fact it has no pumps at all. Gravity fed courses are probably best really. The proposed course in Pershore in Worcestershire is gravity fed in a similar way, so running costs should be minimal. I just wish it would hurry up and get built so I don't have to keep travelling to Cardiff or HPP etc during the summer! It would be nice to have a place for summer evening play boating!

User avatar
John K
Posts: 559
Joined: Mon Sep 02, 2013 7:23 am
Location: Brighton
Been thanked: 8 times

End of a dream?

Post by John K » Mon Dec 04, 2017 6:41 pm

There's definitely scope for small whitewater courses at some of the Thames weirs. I wonder if the EA would ever consider it? The Jubilee River in particular seems to have been a massive missed opportunity.

SimonMW
Posts: 2194
Joined: Sat Jul 24, 2010 11:39 pm
Has thanked: 1 time
Been thanked: 7 times

Re: End of a dream?

Post by SimonMW » Tue Dec 05, 2017 9:39 pm

There's definitely scope for small whitewater courses at some of the Thames weirs. I wonder if the EA would ever consider it? The Jubilee River in particular seems to have been a massive missed opportunity.
It's a lot of effort, but like Pershore (if it eventually gets built! All the pieces are in place though) it is a case of following the US example and getting together a community initiative. Then a company such as EPD can help with how to get things done. Anything is possible. It just needs some dedicated people who really want to get something done, and gaining the support of the local authorities etc.

I was told though that most of the weirs in the UK that have enough gradient/height variation to be useful for a small WW course or play feature have often already been optioned by hydro companies.

Post Reply

Return to “Whitewater and Touring”