California Surfer Killed in Shark Attack Near Sand Dollar Beach

Santa Cruz County Sheriff\'s Office

A 26-year-old man was killed in a shark attack while surfing in California on Saturday afternoon, May 9. The victim was surfboard maker Ben Kelly, the New York Post reported.

Kelly was attacked off Sand Dollar Beach at Manresa State Beach in Santa Cruz County, on the northern end of Monterey Bay, California State Parks said in a statement, according to KTLA 5. A map shared by Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office shows where the attack occurred.

When the first call came in, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office noted on Facebook: “State Parks is responding to a shark bite at Sand Dollar Beach in Santa Cruz County. Please avoid area and water. All press inquiries and questions should be directed to State Parks.”

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office

First responders told NBC Bay Area two other surfers were in the water when the attack occurred.

The Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office also placed a flyer on the beach near the attack.

Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office

Gabe McKenna, public safety superintendent, told the Santa Cruz Sentinel that the attack happened one mile south of Manresa State Beach’s main parking lot. A citizen notified a lifeguard on patrol about the attack, and the water was cleared one mile north and south. The beach will be closed through Wednesday.


Great White Sharks Had Been Seen Near the Beach Recently

A drone photographer had been observing dozens of great white sharks in the area but said that none showed signs of predatory behavior, AP reported.  Eric Mailander told KRON 4 that he counted 15 sharks while on his boat on Saturday morning. You can see drone footage of sharks swimming in the area a couple of days before the attack below.

The day before the attack, KSBW8 reported that great white sharks had returned to what is known as “shark park” off New Brighton, Seacliff and Manresa State Park beaches.

The species of shark that attacked Kelly is not yet known.

In March, a paddleboarder narrowly missed a shark who bit his board near Capitola, Santa Cruz Sentinel reported. At the time, several beaches in the area were closed for five days as a precautionary measure.

Saturday’s attack was the third fatal shark attack in Northern California since 1984, Daily Mail reported. In 2004, a 17-foot great white shark killed a diver in Mendocino County. In 1984, a 16-foot great white shark killed a man at Pigeon Point.


Friends Are Paying Tribute to Kelly Online

Kelly was well known in his community, and friends have been paying tribute to him online and commenting on his last Ben Kelly Surfboards Instagram post.

One person wrote: “Ben, it was an honor to have known you. May God bring peace to your family and friends.” Another wrote: “You are too soo gone from us! You left a beautiful gigantic footprint of love across this world! I’m heart broken for your family!!”

Kelly’s website conveys his passion for his business. His “About” page reads in part:

Why do I shape surfboards? Well… it’s 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.

Kelly was married to wife Katie, the Daily Mail reported.

As of May 5, Manresa State Beach is closed to vehicular access, the website notes. The beach is completely closed from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. every day with no public access, and the beach is only open to local residents at other times due to COVID-19. No sitting or sunbathing is allowed at the beach at this time and individuals must maintain a distance of six feet or more.

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