I started surfing when I was 12. I traded a train set for my first used board - which was a long board. My friends and I begged every adult to take us over the hill to the beaches. We learned by getting up and taking spills, and had no real lessons except those we got from some of the older guys. The boards got smaller, and then I got a twin fin board. I surfed up and down California (The Hook, Pleasure Point, Four Mile, Lighthouse, Steamer Lane and Ft. Point were my usual favorite places). I'm not into it anymore - I got more and more into skiing instead during my undergrad years. I'd say if you're just starting out, you need to get to the beach and learn all you can. Get hooked up with a good shop, like O'Neil's if you're near Santa Cruz, CA. There is so much to learn about the 'vibe' of a surf spot. You don't want to make enemies with the locals. Get together with some more experienced surfers and have them clue you in on things you need to know.