The beach where a veteran surfer was killed by a Great White Shark on Tuesday, Oct. 23, was closed for 72 hours. The beach – called Surf Beach – is off the Vanderberg Air Force base and is expected to open Friday, the 26th.
It is now accepted that it was a Great White – estimated at 15 to 16 feet – that attacked and killed Francisco Javier Solorio Jr. Solorio was an avid surfer who had been surfing at the spot ever since he was a kid. He is survived by his wife Kasey, and two daughters, Monique and Frankie.
Even though the family is devastated and in mourning, they say they are comforted by the fact that Francisco “Paquito” was with friends and doing what he liked best when he died. “It was an absolute perfect day out there, so the family is balancing the tragedy with the fact that he was in the water doing something he loved,” a good friend of the family said.
The local surfer was almost finished for the day and was paddling to shore behind three buddies when the shark attacked, biting him on the left side of his upper torso – the massive wound immediately caused the loss of a lot of blood, and the water surrounding him was read. The shark also appeared to puncture his surf board. Friends helped him to shore where he died.
In the interests of public safety, all Vandenberg beaches were promptly closed for at least 72 hours by Col. Nina Armagno, 30th Space Wing commander. “The intent is to allow time for any potential hazard to leave the area,” she said.
A shark expert from the Shark Research Committee of Chatsworth, Ralph S. Collier, concluded that the shark was indeed a Great White, after examining Solorio’s body and his surf board. Collier said he estimated the size of the shark based on the distance between teeth marks on the board.
Surf Beach is a windy, dune-fringed beach five miles from Lompoc. Some local surfers told the LA Times that even though it’s called “Surf Beach”, ironically, there are plenty of downsides to the beach; currents are tricky, the waters are cold and rough with an undertow; the ride is choppy, measured in powerful bursts instead of long, swooping arcs, even for experienced riders. One local said: “Nobody local looks at it like a nice day at the beach.”
Others called the beach a popular place to hike and walk but that more surfers and swimmers go north to Pismo Beach or south to Santa Barbara.
Ironically, almost exactly two years to the day, Lucas Ransom was killed by a shark at the same beach back on October 22, 2010. He had been a 19-year-old chemical engineering student at UC Santa Barbara. And just the day before Solorio’s death, Ransom’s family had gathered at Surf Beach in his memory.