It took me at least seven years to learn to surf, at least to a level I thought was adequately competent. There was definitely more than seven steps involved, but I hope this summary from my experience will help you save a bit of time and frustration.
Go where the surf’s good.
If you don’t live near good surf, move. If you can’t move, well you can go on surf trips but it’ll take much longer to improve.
It might be more crowded in places with good surf, but at least the waves will have some shape and appeal. Every so often, you’ll score a wave to yourself that’ll make all the hassle worthwhile.
I finally started learning to surf in my 20s on the punchy beach breaks of Perth, the West Australian capital city whose beautiful beaches aren’t known for great surf.