26-year-old surfer killed in shark attack was passionate about the sport

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WATSONVILLE, Calif. — A 26-year-old man killed in a shark attack off a Northern California beach was an avid surfer who customized surfboards for a living.

Ben Kelly was surfing near Manresa State Beach on the northern end of Monterey Bay Saturday afternoon when he was attacked by a shark of unknown species, California State Parks said in a statement.

The attack happened within 100 yards of shore and a witness flagged down a lifeguard patrolling the area, authorities told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

At the time, the beach was closed to visitors to maintain physical-distancing norms during the coronavirus crisis, but swimming and surfing was allowed in the water. As a safety precaution, authorities closed the water 1 mile north and south of the attack until Thursday. Signs have been posted warning beachgoers about the attack.

Monterey Bay drone photographer Eric Mailander told KRON he has observed dozens of great white sharks swimming near the shoreline in recent days. He said he counted 15 sharks while out on his boat Saturday morning.

None were showing signs of aggressive behavior, Mailander told the news station.

Todd Hanson is still in disbelief that his friend, 26-year-old Ben Kelly died from a shark attack on Saturday.

The broken nose of a surfboard along with fresh flower blossoms form a makeshift memorial to surfer Ben Kelly Sunday morning, May 10, 2020 at the top of the stairs to San Dollar Beach.(Shmuel Thaler/The Santa Cruz Sentinel via AP)
The broken nose of a surfboard along with fresh flower blossoms form a makeshift memorial to surfer Ben Kelly Sunday morning, May 10, 2020 at the top of the stairs to San Dollar Beach.(Shmuel Thaler/The Santa Cruz Sentinel via AP)

“I don’t think I’ve processed it in any way of dealing with the sadness and grief yet,” Hanson told KRON.

“But I am very happy to know who he was as a man of God and as a friend and as a husband. Every endeavor that he had whether it was shaping or surfing or his marketing business and all his relationships. It was all to serve others because that was part of his faith.”

On the website for his business, Ben Kelly Surfboards, Kelly explained that he began shaping surfboards as a boy because it gave him a creative outlet and fueled his love for surfing.

“You should feel stoked each time you enter the water and comfortable on your own board,” he wrote.

The Sentinel reported that on Kelly’s company Instagram page, Aly Thompson, who said she was a resident assistant with Kelly in 2014 at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa, posted a comment saying that she is devastated.

“I can’t imagine all that your family, Katie, and all those who loved you are holding right now,” Thompson wrote. “It was an honor to know you and to experience the capacity and ferocity you loved others with. Our year as RAs together was an absolute joy, and I am thankful to have known and experienced life with you in it. Praying for peace that surpasses all understanding and sending so much love.”

On the same post, Jeremy Pedron wrote that he is heartbroken.

“Ben you have always been of the truly kindest & sweetest individuals out there,” Pedron said. “Your love of others always has a felt impact on your community. Your family is in our prayers and our hearts sad. God take care of him for us he deserves the best.”

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