1. Start Small
Find a beach that has a gradual drop-off, with waves that aren't too steep. A two-to-three-foot beach break is idealbut anyplace where the waves are small, easy to read, and slow-moving will work. Mushy, fat waves are the bunny slopes of surfing.
2. Use a Big Board
A larger board has more surface area, for improved balance. It's more likely to get "caught" by the wave, and because it's more buoyant, you can paddle it faster. Start with a board that's about nine feet long.
3. Get in Position
You generally want to be 10 to 15 feet back from where the waves are actually breaking. Check the position of other people surfing the same break. Don't sit right next to them, but get near them.
4. Sit Up
Once you're in position, point your board in the direction of the swell, have a seat, and look back over your shoulder. The higher you sit, the better you can see incoming sets of waves.
When the wave you want is three to five feet from where you're sitting, drop to your belly and paddle slowly, increasing speed if it looks like the wave is going to pass you by. (It's better to miss the wave off the back than get ahead of it and have it break on top of you.)
6. Pop Up
When you feel the wave catch your board, push down on the rails (sides) like you're doing a push-up and quickly sweep your legs underneath you, planting your feet shoulder width apart on the board along the stringer (the wooden strip that bisects every surfboard). If you're too far rearward, you'll do a wheelie and get blown off the back of the wave. If your nose dives, your weight is too far forward.
7. Stay Low
Once you're standing, crouch like a sumo wrestler, spread your arms wide, and grip the board with your toes. The lower you are, the better balanced you'll be.