There was no denying that surfing played a vital role in Ben Kelly's life. He was a respected California surfboard shaper, married to an avid surfer and was out on the waves whenever he got the chance.
On Saturday afternoon, 26-year-old Kelly was out surfing in the waters off Manresa State Beach, about 5 miles west of Watsonville in the city of Santa Cruz when he was the victim of a shark attack, CBS San Francisco reported.
He was brought back to the beach, but died a short time later of his injuries. Kelly was the first fatal shark attack victim in Northern California since an abalone diver was killed near Kibeseliah Rock in Mendocino County in 2004.
Social media tributes began rolling into to his Ben Kelly Surfboards Instagram page on Sunday as the tight-knit local surfing community plunged into a state of mourning.
"Well brother you reached legend status," wrote chejordan28. "We always said if you're gonna go, go big. We as surfers all understand, that we sign under the dotted line, in invisible ink each time we enter the water. We enter into a place where greater things than us dwell and that it could possibly be the last time we set foot on land."
"I just want to send my deepest condolences to his mother and family and all our mutual friends in our surfing community here is Santa Cruz. Ben you were one of a kind, one of the good ones, and you will be sorely missed. Aloha bro and much love on your journey to surfing the stars. At least I know you will have a good board under your feet."
"No words, only grief;" posted nik0hh77. "Yet I have peace and joy knowing Our Father greeted you with open arms. May you rest in Peace my friend."
"Gonna miss you bro @benkellysurfboards thank you for always having that aloha spirit," said h20logist in a post "😢 RIP."
"A true legend and sweetest man I knew," whatsandrewbrewing posted. "He showed love to everyone and was loved by many. Was honored know him for the little I did. Rest In Peace my man."
"Prayers for you Ben, and my heart breaks for your friends and family who miss you," riptide360 wrote.
Santa Cruz County Sheriff's personnel were called at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday to the state parks beach, about a mile south of the main parking lot. A man — later identified as Ben Kelly by the coroner — had been attacked by an "unknown shark species," State Parks said in a news release.
Following State Parks protocol, the water off of Manresa State Beach 1 mile south and north of where the surfer was attacked will be closed for five days, reopening Thursday.
Drone video recorded by Raymond Silver on April 30 about 5 miles from Saturday's attack shows a school of sharks ranging from 8 to 12 feet in length.
Fatal shark attacks are rare along the Northern California coast, despite it being a major breeding ground for the great white shark. There have been at least two other fatal shark attacks since 1984. Both involved divers.
First published on May 10, 2020 / 9:20 PM
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