Christian surfer killed by great white shark remembered for his love of God and the water

The late Ben Kelly, 26, and his widow Katie. (Via Facebook)

A 26-year-old married Christian surfer who was killed during an attack by a great white shark at Manresa State Beach in California was remembered by friends for his love of God and the water.

Officials said the surfer, Ben Kelly, owner of Ben Kelly Surfboards, was killed during the attack at about 1:30 p.m. Saturday about a mile south of the main parking lot of the beach.

 Witnesses of an autopsy performed on Monday said Kelly was attacked by a young adult great white shark, likely in the 10- to 12-foot range.  A gash in his right leg caused him to bleed to death the Santa Cruz Sentinel said.

Kelly was surfing with a friend and approximately seven others when he was bitten on the leg and knocked off his board witnesses said. He quickly got back on his board though and began paddling to shore along with his friend who was surfing further outside.

Even though they used a surf leash from one of their boards as a tourniquet they couldn’t stop the bleeding in time.

“They did everything right,” local shark expert Sean Van Sommeran, who has been tracking the great white population in Monterey Bay since 1990 told the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

Kelly was pronounced dead at the scene.

The “about” section on his company’s website,  says Kelly is a self-taught surfboard shaper with boards “well represented here at home in Santa Cruz, California” and across the globe in Bali, South Africa, Mexico, Central America, Peru and in Hawaii.

Those that knew him, like Kyle Pitchford, a pastor of college students and young adults at Twin Lakes Church in Aptos, remembered him not just for his love of surfing but his love for God too.

“What drove him more than anything was his testimony to Jesus. He wanted that to be what people knew. He wasn’t preachy about it. He was just very sincere,” Pitchford told KSBW8.

Todd Hanson who met Kelly at Bible study and eventually bonded with him on surfing trips said he didn’t just talk about his faith. He lived it.

“That was all his great spirit and his giving spirit and his servant’s heart and spirit all came from his faith and who he was in Christ that flowed out from everything he did,” he said.

Vanguard University President Mike Beals remembered Kelly as generous and kind.

“Shocked and grieved to hear that VU alumnus Ben Kelly ‘15 was killed in a shark attack while surfing off Santa Cruz. Ben and his family were part of the church I led for many years and I watched him grow from a fun, active kid into a compassionate, generous and kind man; a visionary entrepreneur; and a husband who adored his beloved wife Katie (Friesen ‘15). Our prayers are with Katie and the Kelly and Friesen families. The Vanguard family will surround Katie with love and support in all ways possible. Love you Ben,” he said in a statement.

Another friend Clinton Munoz wrote an extended tribute to him in an open letter on Facebook.

“I’d thought you’d like to know that God STILL has a plan for your life and continues to use you in sooo many ways even though you’re not here in the flesh. I’ve talked to numerous people that have made some huge life decisions because they want to live how you did. I am praying that people who have never known Jesus come to know Him as you did through your passing and I am confident that is your biggest desire as well!” Munoz wrote in part.

“I loved you Ben. Your goofiness, your genuine spirit, your love for people, your desire for the Father to use you, your innocence, your inspirational dance moves, your laugh, your calmness, peace and so many more things. I can’t stop crying knowing you’re not here anymore and I miss you so much…

“I thought for sure some day we would swap stories of our kids and successes and how God was using us both to impact the world and that we would have many more surf sessions ahead of us. It doesn’t matter if we weren’t super close when you passed, you were a part of my life and a person I made wonderful memories with!” he said.

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