2023 was a heavy year for my family and me. If 2023 has taught me anything, it is about the real look at our own mortality and how close this has affected me over the past year. Turning 40 is one thing, but when you have a year like mine, that door is opened wide, and you have a real look inside yourself to see if you're doing what truly makes you happy. I'm happy to say I am very grateful for my life, family, friends, and career. All are very special to me, and I realize not everyone has all of these things to balance out their lives.

My sister had been struggling with alcoholism heavily for over 2 years. She passed away in October, directly related to her overuse of alcohol. She wasn't even 50. This shattered me and my family's lives, but to say the lead-up to it was not just as painful would be a lie. I hope if you or any of your family are struggling that they find help and outlets to talk and cope with what they are going through.

I've also had to go through really starting to see my parents' old age. Turning 40 myself too means my parents are also dealing with our aging bodies. Just before Christmas this year, my father suffered from a stroke. He awoke in bed only to find himself paralyzed. Some warnings the days before were complaints about my father feeling lethargic and not himself. Come to wake up one morning in December to find half his body not functioning. From what we've been told, it sounds like his stroke was minimal compared to what others often suffer going through something similar. It's been about 3 weeks; it is now the day after Christmas, and he has recovered some movement in both his legs and arms. He's still working on standing and walking on his own.

During all of this, we have also been dealing with trying to get my mother in for a much-needed back surgery. Her Medicare hasn't made it the easiest for her, and they have put off her surgery yet again. It sucks to see her in pain, but with my father, it honestly may have been best to delay it until this spring.

With all that said, I was still able to do some really special things this year. I was able to take a surf trip to Scorpion Bay for my 40th birthday, fly back to Wisconsin numerous times to assist family, take multiple trips to California's amusement parks with visiting friends, see countless amazing concerts and art shows, visits to Palm Springs, and an endless amount of surfing around southern California.

The Scorpion Bay trip sums up 2023 pretty well. It was an unforgettable trip but was filled with complications and challenges. In the end, I'm happy to have gotten through it and don't regret the trip, but I'm not sure I'd want to experience it the same way again.

I've started therapy with Better Help this year. If you feel like you need someone to talk to, I highly recommend trying it out as it is easy and more affordable than some traditional therapy. I spent some of my free time volunteering with Stoked surfing events. I even competed in a couple of the Venice Surfing Association events.

I also poured myself into my work at Surfline. The company went through a bit of change this year, but I think we're coming out the other side better for it. We have a new CEO that I believe has the right knowledge and experience to take us forward another 5 years with the right focus and direction. I'm excited to see what we can deliver to our customers in 2024.

Here is a glimpse of some of the features I've helped develop in 2023.

Peace 2023. It has been REAL.