Bud Franz

Still alive and well.

As Bud Franz and Dave Arnold climbed into their kayaks with a 1976 Mountain River Tours raft trip, they promised each other that they would simply try to run clean lines—no hot dogging (if you’ll pardon the pun). Before they even got to the first major rapid, however, the deal was shot.

The class-III rapid known as Bud’s Boner consists of 2 ledges. As he passed the first of them, Franz angled his boat left and, unfortunately, leaned slightly upstream. He flipped, recirculated under the pile of foam for a moment, and then, upside down in his boat, he washed against a rock just downstream. Held against the stone by the current, Franz was unable to roll, and after a few attempts, he popped his spray skirt and swam out, leaving his kayak behind. He managed to grab hold of a Mountain River Tours raft filled with customers just above the second ledge, and holding onto guide Randall Ballard’s neck, he made it through unscathed, although he would have to hike back upstream to free his kayak.

A “boner,” in this case, is nothing more than an error, and the above is the truth of why Bud’s Boner is so named. You, however, have probably never heard that story, even if you’re familiar with the Gauley River. If you’ve heard anything, it’s probably far more dramatic—a tale that involves phallic pinning, bizarre sexual proclivities and even the death of Bud Franz.

In this video, Bud, who is still very much alive, explains.

Jay Young recently authored Whitewater Rafting on West Virginia’s New & Gauley Rivers: Come On In, the Water’s Weird, an objective history of southern West Virginia’s commercial rafting industry. In his second book, tentatively titled The Rubber Room, Young will attempt to paint a portrait of the business from the perspectives of those who created it and lived it day in and day out—the raft guides—by retelling their terrifying and often hilarious tales, be they true or tall. The complete story of Bud’s Boner and the most outrageous lies about that day will be one of the chapters.