As a surfer of some 32 years experience in Aust/NZ/US and Indonesia and a skier for 20odd let me make the following observations.
Surfing remains IMHO one of the hardest pasttimes to master - there are just so many variables, weather and tides, the medium is constantly moving, you have to outwit your fellow surfers to get a wave at a crowded break, you need strength and stamina just to put yourself in a position to catch a wave and your equipment choice is crucial to your success. The actual act of riding a wave is incredibly intense and usually very brief. If you have to think about what you are going to do next it is probably too late - your skills need to be inate. Surf locations such as point breaks and reefs take out one variable - the shape of the bottom - so they are easier to judge when manouevring for your wave and generally offer a more uniform wave shape. However, surfing reefs is one way to sharpen your skills as there is NO margin for error - much like skiing steeps with unmarked hazards - you have to commit and trust your skills as you drop into them just like that first jump turn on the double black diamond.
Skiing, I tell my non-skiing mates, is like surfing 6ft offshore every day, you don't have to paddle back out as there's a lovely lift to take you back. It may not be as intense as surfing but the fun's just spread out more and more accessible.
BOTH offer an experience which is incredible fun from about day 3. Both give you the feeling you'd never be able to get there on the first day.
I work as a volunteer with the Disabled Surf Association and we get kids with the most severe disabilities onto a board and let them experience the ocean with trained people all around them to assist. Most just lay on their stomachs on the way to the beach grinning and hooting - blind kids, quadraplegics - you name it we do it. I have seen ski programs doing similar things. All the kids can't wait to come back next year. I often think the volunteers get just as bigger buzz from the day as the kids.
On another note I used to say that boogie boarding and snow boarding are kindred activities as both can be mastered in much shorter time than skiing or surfing. I don't deny that they are great fun, I just have more respect for the guys that can do both, board AND ski well, or body board AND surf well.
Nice to see guys like Jer appreciating surfing as an outsider - we'll have to work on Maggot
IMHO both are harnessing nature's forces and are impossible to stop once started.
As one of the Dogtown Boys once said 'it's all about style'. Thank God for gravity.