Shark attack kills beloved Santa Cruz surfer-shaper

May 11, 2020 | Surfing
Ben Kelly: the passionate surfer and shaper from Santa Cruz was killed by a shark | Photo: Kelly Facebook

Ben Kelly, a Santa Cruz surfer and shaper, lost his life after being attacked by a shark 100 yards off Manresa State Beach.

The 26-year-old was enjoying a Saturday afternoon surf session five miles west of Watsonville when he was mauled by an unknown shark species.

Kelly was brought back to the beach but passed away later of his injuries.

The Northern California coast is an important breeding ground for great whites, but deadly shark attacks are quite rare.

In the past 35 years, two divers lost their lives in shark attacks.

In 1985, 28-year-old Omar Conger was bitten at Pigeon Point and pulled underwater by a 15-foot great white shark.

In 2004, Randy Fry was attacked by a 17-foot great white near Kibesillah Rock, and his body was only recovered three days later.

Ben Kelly was the third victim in nearly four decades.

Ben Kelly: the 26-year-old surfer was also a respected surfboard shaper | Photo: Ben Kelly Surfboards

A Kind Man and Husband

The young man had his own shaping business and produced several boards for the Santa Cruz community.

The self-taught shaper created his own label - Ben Kelly Surfboards.

Ben was married to Katie, also an avid surfer, and was known for being a positive, kind and altruistic individual.

The Santa Cruz surfing community is in shock and mourning the loss of one of its dearest members.

After the shark attack, and following the California Department of Parks and Recreation protocol, all beaches and coastal waters one mile south and north of where Ben was attacked were closed for five days.

On April 30, a drone video showed dozens of sharks swimming in the area near the shoreline.

Sharks often mistake a surfer's flailing arms and feet for prey.

But when they realize it's not something they want to eat, they have done enough damage to swimmers, divers, and surfers.

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