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

WATSONVILLE, Calif. (KGO) -- A 26-year-old man killed in a shark attack off a Santa Cruz County beach was an avid surfer who customized surfboards for a living.

The Santa Cruz County coroner's office identified the victim of Saturday's attack as Ben Kelly.

RELATED: Officials identify 26-year-old surfer killed in shark attack off Santa Cruz coast

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 (91 meters) offshore, 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 (1.6 kilometers) north and south of the attack until Thursday, and signs have been posted warning beachgoers about the attack.

Law enforcement isn't releasing more details on the attack, but what we do know is Kelly was well known in the surfing community.

Peter Mel, Owner of Freeline Surf Shop said, "This guy had so much knowledge of the ocean, he's been surfing for his entire life. He understood the area, he's been traveling all over the world, so he's one of those guys you know understood the risks. You just hope that it doesn't happen, but it wasn't anything where he was making a mistake."

Mel said Kelly operated a small surfboard business, manufacturing them in his home.

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

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

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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