A 26-year-old man who was well known in the Santa Cruz, Calif., community as a surfer and surfboard maker was killed in a shark attack at a Northern California beach Saturday afternoon.

Ben Kelly was attacked as he surfed with others within 100 yards of shore around 1:30 p.m. at Manresa State Beach on Monterey Bay near Watsonville, the California Department of Parks and Recreation said in a statement. The victim was pronounced dead at the scene, and the water one mile north and south of the incident location was closed for five days, as required by protocol.

Kelly’s friends posted on his Ben Kelly Surfboards shop’s Instagram account, which bears the bio, “You dream it, I’ll shape it.”

One user called his death “heartbreaking. Ben, you have always been one of the truly kindest and sweetest individuals out there. Your love of others always has an impact on your community.”

“Ben you are one of a kind, one of the good ones, and you will be sorely missed,” another user wrote. “Aloha bro and much love on your journey to surfing the stars. At least I know you will have a good board under your feet.”

Another wrote: “BK had one of the biggest hearts and you’ll be missed brother. Till our next surf up on the clouds. RIP BK.”

On his company’s website, Kelly is described as a self-taught surfboard shaper with boards “well represented here at home in Santa Cruz, California” as well as in Bali, South Africa, Mexico, Central America, Peru and Hawaii. Video posted on the site shows him shaping a surfboard.

“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 for me,” Kelly said in his bio. “It’s the way I have found to give back to others.”

Signs warning beachgoers about the shark attack were posted on access points and beach entrances within a one-mile radius of the incident. Santa Cruz County parks and beaches had been closed and surfing banned as part of a shelter-in-place order amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. They were reopened and surfing was allowed again in April.

Fatal shark attacks are rare along the Northern California coast, although it is a major breeding ground for the great white shark, according to KPIX, San Francisco’s CBS affiliate. There have been at least two other fatal attacks since 1984, KPIX noted, but those involved divers. In March, a shark bit the board of a paddleboarder near Capitola, narrowly missing him, according to the sheriff’s office.

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