In the winter, most of the people that I surf around have it completely together. It is freezing cold, the waves are big, and if you don't know what you are doing, you don't make it off the rocks.
Summer is a bit different. Summer is a lot softer and a lot friendlier. Summer is great.
Still, you need to learn how to study the ocean before paddling out. Find the rips, time the sets, see who is ripping, find the peak you want. By doing this you will get so much more out of your session than just throwing yourself out into the breaking waves and hoping for something good.
Last time I was out, it was a couple feet overhead but it was breaking pretty far out. Nobody was out, as usual. Before long though, one guy pulled into the parking lot and suited up. I suited up to join him. Right as we were getting ready to head down the trail and jump in the water, another guy came running up to join us for the paddle out. I had been watching the lineup for 20 or 30 minutes. I knew where the channel was, where it was breaking, and how to get back out after each wave. And it paid off. Two of us paddled out, not hair dry by any means, but we made it out cleanly. The third guy never made it outside of the inside.
My buddy and I, Matt his name turned out to be, traded waves for almost three hours. Long fast rides from outside the rocks to the other end of the beach. And then long paddles back out watching the other guy firing along in the pocket.
Watch. Study. Think. Surf.
In that order.
Lars and the 42 Crew