Be the board...ROFL...
Quick update: Just got home from Carmel Beach. Awesome day today, Glassy and 2-5 ft this morning with the wind picking up a little in the afternoon. I was able to paddle out, practice turtle rolls and even caught 5 or 6 WW walls. No standing up though, I'll get there. The feeling is so crazy when you can feel the wave lift you up and start to carry you! I'm super stoked. I've got an ear to ear grin thinking about it!! zaGaffer; I will def get some pics of Ghost Trees Breaking next time, it's a pretty sick spot! I'll try to get some pics of the area in general up; the beaches in this area (Big Sur-Santa Cruz) are pretty epic!
Here's my take...just charge it! Take every wave you can, even if you don't think you're going to make it. Just be respectful of other surfers (don't drop in or kick out your board). The more waves you take, the quicker you're going to improve. Don't worry that you might look like a kook. That's a given. Wear it like pride. Those laughs and snickers you hear from other surfers are in your head.
If waist high waves look too big for you, you just need to get over it. It's just water. The big lesson for many people in surfing is courage - getting over the hesitation. Pretty soon you'll be looking for bigger surf.
I see these guys all the time - they paddle around the line up and act like their trying to catch waves, but don't. Most of us who've been surfing a long time appreciate newbies who charge it. Once you fall a few times, it won't seem so bad. Just remember to bend your knees - more than you think you need to - and don't look down at your feet. Look at how the wave is building. that will take your mind off of popping up. Always think one move ahead.