My wife wanted to take a surfing lesson on vacation and I joined her. While waiting, I saw a guy come out of the water with half a board and joked, "ooh, a shark bit it!" And my wife looked me right in the eye and said,"Don't scare me any more than I already am," and I realized how nervous she was.
We were the only two students. Chris, our instructor, was right out of central casting, a blond California surfer dude with sunglasses and, he told us, a girlfriend from Spain.
We wore wetsuits due to the surprisingly cold water this season. On shore, he showed us where to lie on the long surfboard, how to paddle (arcing the chest and head up as in a "Superman" stretch) and safety practices like protecting your head with your hands when you've fallen off and come out of the water. We learned about wind, tide and how they effect waves for surfing. To our surprise, high tide was bad for surfing, but good for our lesson, because the waves are so close to the shore--you could break your neck falling off the board surfing, but it made it easier to get past the breaking wave zone for our lesson on the boards.
For me, the scariest moment was after I had first paddled past the breaking waves and the instructor went back in to bring Jeanne out also. I was in deeper water than I'd been in absent a boat, and while the waves weren't breaking there were a lot of big swells. The board felt unstable. I wondered how deep the dark-green water was and what was swimming under me.
In the water, we practiced paddling, turning the board, sitting up on the wobbling board and, of course, getting back on after falling off.
My wife got tired and the instructor brought her to shore. We had drifted, so I started paddling against the current and wind, parallel to the beach. Man, that's where I realized what a good workout you can get from surfing.
Back onshore, the instructor showed us how to pop up to actually ride a wave. The stance is sideways--closer to what I saw in a kenpo class (even more sideways than that, however) than the more forward-facing boxing/muay thai stance I naturally took.
As for actually riding a wave--maybe tomorrow when I take another class!