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The Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday declared that this Thursday will be known as Ben Kelly Day in the county in honor of a surfboard shaper who died in a shark attack earlier this month at a beach west of Watsonville.

Kelly would have turned 27 on Thursday but died after the attack reported the afternoon of May 9 by what a local expert has determined to be a great white shark.

The proclamation passed by the supervisors said Kelly died after setting out to surf at “The Beaches,” a stretch from Sand Dollar Beach past Manresa and La Selva beaches.

Sean van Sommeran, founder of the Capitola-based Pelagic Shark Research Foundation, posted on Facebook last week that the county coroner requested he attend the autopsy of Kelly, who van Sommeran wrote died “almost certainly” as a result of a sub-adult great white shark.

Courtesy of Ben Kelly Surfboards Santa Cruz County, Calif. surfer and professional board shaper was killed in a great white shark attack May 9, 2020. The county has proclaimed Thursday, May 21, 2020 as Ben Kelly Day, on what would’ve been his 27th birthday.

The post said:

“Kelly was on the inside of his friend while surfing on a short board. Kelly was seen by his companion to be pulled underwater amid commotion at Kelly’s board.”

He came back to the water’s surface and made it to shore with his friend, but the bleeding could not be stopped, van Sommeran wrote.

The proclamation by the Board of Supervisors said Kelly began hand shaping surf boards while studying at Vanguard University in Costa Mesa in Orange County, where he met his wife Katie. He eventually launched a company named Ben Kelly Surfboards.

The proclamation by Supervisor John Leopold said:

“Ben practiced his belief that surfing was so much more than just catching waves — it was about the people he met and the continuous grand adventures that made it fun while blessing others along the way.”

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