do a search on the forum, this has been brought up multiple times. 200-500 isn't much of a budget. You can pick up a canon G11 or a Pentax Optio WPI (waterproof) for that range. If you plan on shooting from land you'll need to spend more (or pick something up used).
I've got one of the Canons. Great camera for the money, 20x optical zoom that's equivalent to a 560 mm zoom so you can get decent shots from the beach. It's not a digital slr but definitely a nice camera.
I used to be into nature photography back in the day and loved my SLR camera until the digital age took over. The cost was pretty high initially with anything new to the market. But I recently got back into it after finding a pretty affordable digital SLR, which is the Nikon d3000.... You can find it anywhere from $550 to $600 bucks, which is a solid price. The closest Canon comp, which is one of the rebel models will run you a couple hundred over that. The pix are crisp as any digital SLR out there and is pretty easy to use for the beginner. With any SLR, you are able to use it on an aperture and shutter setting which makes for some killer surf pix if you learn to balance the lighting. I def recommend this camera... you'll get your bang for your buck dude.
i dont know what "type" of camera you were looking for, but the Gopro HD surf hero looks real cool. its like 270 but im not sure if its what your looking for. its a cam mounted to the tail or nose of your board and it takes pics every 2 secs or somthing, or videos. looks cool