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Surfboard Designer Fatally Attacked by Shark

— May 20, 2020

Surfer dies in extremely rare shark attack incident.

26-year-old surfer Ben Kelly was riding the waves in Northern California when he was killed by a shark this month.  “Kelly was roughly 100 yards from shore at Manresa State Beach near Santa Cruz when he was attacked at 1:30 p.m.,” according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.  The beach nearby had been closed to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Yet, people were still allowed to engage in “active aquatic recreation,” the parks department explained.  The beach will now remain closed to the public due to the incident until at least May 14 and warning signs have been posted.

Kelly was a well-known surfboard manufacturer in the area who lived with his wife Katie.  He indicates on his website that surfboard designing is “something I’ve done since I was a kid.  A sort of escape from an overly productive world to a simpler more creative space!  What started as a way to fuel my own surfing passion has now become a way to stoke out my fellow surfers, and that is truly fulfilling to me.  It’s the way I have found to give back to others.”

Surfboard Designer Fatally Attacked by Shark
Photo by Jeremy Bishop on Unsplash

He continues, “I am a self-taught shaper bringing the core fundamentals of board building into a fresh new mindset and clean modern feel that works for you!   I love the process of creating: taking something raw and formless and making it into something both functional and aesthetic.  This involves working directly with surfers where they are at in their surfing journey and equipping them to take the next step.”

The species of shark that attacked Kelly is not yet known, the Department of Parks and Recreation added, but Simon R. Thorrold, a senior scientist in the biology department at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution in Falmouth, Massachusetts, said his “best guess” was that “it was a great white shark.”

Thorrold added, “White sharks are big enough and their teeth are so sharp that even a halfhearted attempt will cause significant injuries.  Shark attacks are rare, but it is not unusual for them to occur close to shore.”  They’re so rare, in fact, he stated, “Hippos kill way more people every year than sharks do…While sharks prefer not to eat humans, surfers can find themselves in danger because the silhouette of a surfboard with a surfer on top, as seen by a shark underwater, can resemble a seal.  Seals are part of their natural prey.  It is not unreasonable to think that the shark thinks it is a seal and gets to the surfer and realizes pretty quickly it does not want to eat it.  By that time, the shark has done enough damage to the human that it can end in tragedy.”

Friends had many good things to say about Kelly on social media.

“A true legend and sweetest man I knew.  He showed love to everyone and was loved by many,” wrote an Instagram user.  Another friend called him “one of the good ones.”

“Ben, you are one of a kind, one of the good ones, and you will be sorely missed,” friend Che Jordan wrote on Instagram. “Aloha bro and much love on your journey surfing to the stars.”


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