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Surf Beach shark attack victim had leg bitten off, sheriff says [Updated]

October 22, 2010 |  1:46 pm

The victim of Friday morning's fatal shark attack at Surf Beach in northern Santa Barbara County was a 20-year-old UC Santa Barbara student who was body boarding when the shark bit his leg off, County Sheriff Bill Brown reportedly told The Lompoc Record.

The newspaper quoted Brown as saying the incident occurred between 9 and 9:30 a.m., when the 20-year-old was in the water with a friend.

[Updated at 1:55 p.m: Vandenburg Air Force Base issued a statement saying that the victim was boogie boarding.]

Shark sightings reportedly are common off Surf Beach.

"Surfers like the area, especially on a day like today when the break is head high and smooth. But they say they see sharks," Clay Garland, head ranger at Jalama Beach, told the Times.

That's not the case at Jalama, about an hour south, said Garland, a Santa Barbara County Parks employee who sends crews to Surf Beach to pick up trash and do maintenance. "In the 12 years I've been here, there's only been two sightings."

Garland guessed that the shark off Surf Beach saw the body boarder and thought he was a seal. “They follow the food chain and we’re in their domain,” he said.

Surf Beach is owned by Vandenberg Air Force Base but is publicly accessible from Highway 246, Garland said.

Details of Friday's attack remained sketchy. A spokeswoman for Vandenberg Air Force Base told The Times that Santa Barbara County coroner's investigators were on the beach and that the investigation was being handled by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department. Authorities closed Surf Beach and Wall and Minuteman beaches for 72 hours because of the attack.

The Lompoc Record said that in 2008, a shark took a bite out of a surfer's board at Surf Beach, prompting officials to temporarily close that section of coastline.

-- Andrew Blankstein in Los Angeles and Catherine Saillant in Thousand Oaks