I started surfing on a ridiculously short short board. That's because I was kinda ass-like when I didn't listen to the kid at the surf shop.
An employee of mine introduced me to surfing in the early 90's. He was once ranked 14th in THE WORLD in body boarding. Pretty cool to surf with him- Lifeguards at Jones Beach on long island would get off their stand to go talk to him when he got out because of his abilities on waves- exciting to watch him do his magic, even for experienced water men like those guys. When I body boarded, the fins cut into my ankles and I would bleed for days afterward so I decided to try surfing instead.
I went to a surf shop with the wrong attitude, thinking that I was above advice for some reason. The kid said "well, if you are just starting, I would suggest a long board because it's easier to learn. I smartly said "I'm a quick learner, I'll take that one," pointing to the little red 5.5' wafer staring at me.
I will say conservatively that I never did well on that little board- couldn't catch the wave, couldn't surf. Years later I bought a longboard for $900 and that was when I truly started surfing. It was really easy to catch even the smallest wave, I was comfortable enough to look around, I competed efficiently (really) when going for a wave.
Time went on and I realized that I didn't want to have a long board as my primary board so I bought another short board, and I had a lot of difficulty with that one also. I couldn't compete for the waves with better surfers, they always won. Board was too...short, thin, narrow. Everything was wrong with either me or that board. Just not a good relationship.
So I called up Lynn Shell from OBBC on Cape Hatteras, NC, and told him my height, weight, surfing ability, where I surf, my experience level, and my goals. He took all that into consideration and made me my own board that was a little thicker up front, a little wider, but still 6.5' long with a swallow tail. Surfing on that was like magic, turning on that board was like skating on sharp ice skates. But above all, I could catch any wave offered to me, and competed well with the best (limited only by my fear of huge waves and late take-off aversion).
I'm on my third one made by him now.
My point in telling you this: walk in to a great surf shop and tell them the truth about your surfing ability. If you pretend to be the greatest of the great, you are just screwing yourself and delaying the point in time that you will really start to enjoy this sport.
Take it from me, it's the truth!