Let me begin by saying, you aren't going to learn how to surf by reading about it on the Internet. That having been said, there are plenty of things you may want to know before you grab a board and run into the ocean. Here is a crash course on surfing basics. Maybe with a little knowledge behind you, you won't have to look like a complete fool the first day you get out there with a board. But don't worry if you do. It's all part of the process. It will all be worth it when you're having a blast hanging ten as the girls all stare from the beach.
Let's start out by talking about the board itself. Since surf boards are made to float, each one has its own center of gravity. Toss it in calm water, and it will always lie the same way. When you lay on the board, you want to let it keep that same center of gravity. The board should lay the exact same way, just a little lower because of your body weight. Find the sweet spot and mark where your chin has to be, that way you can be sure to be on the right part of the board every time you paddle out. If you're too far forward, you'll nose dive into the war. Since that idea makes us panic, most beginners go the other way and cork the board. You'll never catch a wave if the nose isn't naturally lying in the water.
When you are paddling out, always alternate arms. This allows you to keep a steady pace. Trying to paddle with both arms at once will cause you to speed up during each paddle and slow down between them. You want a constant cruising speed.
Next, it is time to try sitting on your board. Before you can jump to your feet, you need to learn balance, and that requires being calm. Sitting on the board is great practice. It requires you to steady yourself. Panic, and it will just dump you in the water.
If you can paddle the board and sit on it, you are ready to stand up. Start in the lying position to maintain the board's center of gravity. Put your hands out by your shoulders until you are basically in a pushup position. As you push your upper body off the board, pull your feet up under you, making sure that they head for the stringer (that line that goes down the center of the board). Remember not to stand up straight or the board will just throw your right off. Your knees have to be crouched. You're about to wrestle a wave. Make sure your feet are planted like a sumo wrestler. Always look ahead. Looking at your feet will put you in the drink every time.
Keep a safe distance while you are leaning, and be sure to tie yourself off to your board until you've mastered the basics.