"It feels like the ultimate form of betrayal to fall victim to the one thing a surfer recognizes and fears as a possibility."
An autopsy on Santa Cruz shaper Ben Kelly, who was killed by a shark while surfing Sand Dollar beach aka Shark Park on Saturday, May 9, has revealed the animal to be a ten-foot plus Great White.
Sean Van Sommeran, the founder and director of the Pelagic Shark Research Foundation which was created in 1990 to push for the protection Great Whites in California and whose own story is worth your time reading, attended the autopsy.
I attended the autopsy yesterday, the shark is almost certainly to be subadult white shark estimated to be 10′ plus.
Mr 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.
Kelly surfaced and immediately exited the water with companion however the bleeding could not be stopped.
DNA and Xray will be used in attempts to recover potential teeth frags or shark tissue and pending final report.
It is most likely that a subadult shark 10’ft or over was cause of the tragic mortality and the juvenile and yearling sharks not at all likely to be implicated.
The shark most likely responsible for the fatality is of the generational category that has always been known to frequent that particular location prior to 2015 arrival of yearling and juvenile shark pups. Test results and lab report still pending.
As these sharks mature from subadult 10′-14′ to adult (14.5’ft and over) they change course and migration routes and begin to circuit the open ocean and deep sea and return seasonally to large seal colonies such as the Big Sur, ANI, SEFI and other well known seal and shark associated sites and seasonal way points.
It should not be presumed that the younger and smaller sharks we see in the Shark Park and La Selva areas will continue to hang out at these locations until they are 20 foot long massive dangerous sharks.
They rotate out as they mature and graduate to wide migratory routes mostly associated with pelagic offshores or coastal seal colonies that can support their energetic requirements.
“Kelly was…bitten on the leg and knocked off his board. He quickly got back on and began paddling to shore — as did his friend who was surfing further outside. Once they got to shore, they used a surf leash from one of their boards as a tourniquet but couldn’t stop the bleeding in time.”
“In thirty seconds, using a tourniquet, you’ve saved a friend’s life,” says Cohen.
As his buddy Zachary Shull writes, “It feels like the ultimate form of betrayal to fall victim to the one thing a surfer recognizes and fears as a possibility. We sign the proverbial liability waiver every time we paddle out, but the thought of such a horrific event is dismissed as an extreme rarity. Those thoughts are quickly overshadowed by the joy and refreshment that comes from surfing and getting a good wave, and so we still choose to paddle out.”