California surfer, 26, killed in shark attack

Ben Kelly became the first fatality from a shark attack in Northern California in 16 years after being attacked near a beach outside Santa Cruz.
/ Source: TODAY

The beach community in Santa Cruz, California, is mourning the death of local surfer Ben Kelly after the 26-year-old died in a shark attack on Saturday.

Kelly was attacked about 100 yards off Manresa State Beach south of Santa Cruz at about 1:30 p.m., according to state officials.

Ben Kelly, 26, a surfer and local business owner in Santa Cruz, California, was killed in a shark attack over the weekend. Ben Kelly/ Facebook

The lifeguard on duty was flagged down by a citizen on the beach who said there had been a shark attack. Two surfers who were with Kelly were able to get him to shore, but he was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a statement by the California Department of Parks and Recreation.

Kelly is the first person to be killed in a shark attack in Northern California since an abalone diver in 2004 in Mendocino County. The nearby beach is now closed for a mile in each direction according to protocol following a shark attack.

Surfing was an integral part of Kelly's life and also his livelihood, as he owned a local business as a surfboard shaper. He also frequently went surfing with Katie Kelly, his wife of two years.

"He passed away doing something he really loved,'' legendary Santa Cruz big wave surfer and local surf shop owner Peter Mel told Schwartz.

"He's one of those guys, you know, he knew the risks. You hope it doesn't happen, but it wasn't anything where he was making a mistake."

People have been leaving tributes to Kelly on old posts on his surf shop's Instagram.

"Shreddin’ in sky above, forever,'' one person wrote. "May God bless your family during this heartbreaking time."

"Rest In Peace catch some perfect waves in heaven," another wrote.

Authorities are still not sure what kind of shark attacked Kelly.

"It's an inherent risk with surfing and being in the water," Gabe McKenna, public safety superintendent for California State Parks, said at a news conference. "But it's completely tragic."