What you do is you paddle out with your chest on the board (you are supposed to arch your back while you do this, but I don’t know that so my nipples and my chest are on fire), eating waves as they wash in. You look back periodically and get a sense for where you are in relation to the shore. When you are far enough out, you wait on your board until you see a wave big enough to ride.
Then you see one. You frantically turn around and wait for the wave to get to you. You start paddling when it is near (this is also wrong: you should start paddling right away because you need to be going fast) so that your velocity and its velocity combine and your board becomes part of the wave. When you feel it catch (you can feel it catch) you raise yourself slowly using your hands and stand sideways on the board like a surfer.
Because then, if you have done everything more or less right, that’s what you are.
But if you haven’t, it’s still ok. You are a guy out on the ocean with a big flotation device trying to be a surfer, a great excuse to sit out on the water and let the waves roll over you, the right mix of purpose and purposelessness that lets you appreciate the vastness and strangeness of the salty water that stretches forever with neither the pollution of single-mindedness nor the bitter taste of aimlessness. It is in tasks like surfing that require a medium level of attention that you are able to attain the outside-selfness necessary to properly take in the sorts of things you want to take in and what better thing to take in than the weird, huge thing we call the ocean.