Pruthi Family (Tarun & Sharmistha — Arunay’s Parents) with San Mateo officials.

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Arunay Foundation unveiled its first of many Life Ring Stations at Pillar Point Harbor, Half Moon Bay. The goal is to take the project beyond the San Mateo county coast and equip other dangerous beaches in the area. Currently, four lifesaving stations with ring buoys were installed in three locations: Pillar Point Harbor, Mavericks Beach, and  Surfers Beach. The event was done in collaboration with San Mateo County Harbor District and Sea Valor

The project idea came after the Pruthi family lost Arunay, their older son, to sneaker waves in January 2021. Arunay, a loving, charming, athletic 12-year-old boy, drifted and drowned in front of his family and friends at the Cowell Ranch Beach, Half Moon Bay. In spite of valiant efforts by his family, friends, and dozens of other beach-goers, Arunay could not be rescued. A massive search and rescue mission was launched by his parents. Thousands of people from around California came to support the effort. Unfortunately, even after many days of search by helicopters, boats, divers, and community, Arunay could not be found. After more than two weeks of relentless efforts, the search and rescue mission was called off.  

“For fifteen minutes they saw their child drifting away deep into the water and couldn’t do anything. No parents should go through this,” said Eric Jones, Sea Valor. Eric has been a part of Arunay’s Search and Rescue team. 

The grieving parents, Tarun & Sharmishta, decided to channel their loss into a cause that can prevent such tragedies in the future. They launched the Arunay Foundation, a non-profit which aims to reduce beach accidents and coastal drownings. 

Katie Mingle, one of the many people who formed a human chain that ominous day, spoke about how having access to a floating device could have saved Arunay. “We were desperately looking for something like this ring on the beach that day to use. I think we should get these on every beach in California.” Mingle, her partner, and their friends got together with other beachgoers and rescued Arunay’s mom, his dad, little brother, and a couple of Arunay’s family friends.

Coast Guard helicopter doing a live rescue demo.

The ceremony drew nearly 200 people to the beach near Pillar Point Harbor. U.S. Coast Guard also performed a helicopter flyover in Arunay’s memory and gave a live demonstration of a Coast Guard helicopter rescuing a person from a boat. 

The foundation’s goal is to work collaboratively with local, state, and national level government agencies to install similar Life Ring Stations across the California Coast. “None of us knew about rip current and sneaker waves. Along with equipping our beaches with the rings, we also want to educate kids and the community about hidden hazards of sneaker waves and how to identify them,” said Aarati Desai, Arunay Foundation.

Arunay Foundation’s education involves a three-pronged approach:

Educate: Introduce young minds to the ocean environment including recognition of rip currents, sneaker waves, and other beach hazards. While schools train children to respond to an earthquake or a live-shooter incident, they do not educate them about beach safety. Arunay Foundation wants to collaborate with schools and domain experts to create educational materials on ocean and beach safety to fill this knowledge gap.

Equip: Equip every public & private beach with rescue equipment like the Life Ring. Their hope is that in the event of an unfortunate incident, family members, bystanders, and first responders have access to the appropriate equipment to mount a rescue.

Inform: Ensure people have the information they need to evaluate the risk posed by the waves while they are near the beach. In collaboration with tech companies, the Arunay Foundation wants people to receive real-time alerts about beach and ocean conditions. 

How Can You Help?

Arunay Foundation is looking for partners to help them reach our goal of zero avoidable deaths on our beaches.

Specifically, they are looking for:

  1. Resources to purchase and install life-ring stations at beaches across the Pacific Coast — partners in local county & state agencies who can drive the effort in their districts.
  2. Credible and age-appropriate training material to educate children about evaluating sea conditions and recognizing hazards on the beach — partners in the state education department who can assist in making it a part of the safety training in schools across California.
  3. Partners in the technology industry who can make it easier for people to access information that informs them of beach conditions.
  4. Industrial partners who can develop and sponsor autonomous drones, which can be used to deploy life-saving equipment before first responders can reach the scene.
  5. Financial support to drive these efforts.

Check out how you get involved with the Arunay Foundation here:

Vikram Saxena is a family friend of the Pruthis and Secretary at Arunay Foundation. He lives with his wife and two sons in Cupertino, CA.