Tamarindo surf is ideal for beginners except on the rare day that the swell direction brings big waves into Tamarindo. Tamarindo has very little exposure to the South due to Punta San Francisco and Isla Capitan, so big swell only comes when it is coming straight out of the West.
Tamarindo has a sandy bottom except where rocks are visible. If you surf between the large rock that is visible just offshore even at high tide and the river mouth, you will not encounter any rocks.
You can check the swell direction with the tracker from Magic Seaweed Costa Rica. You can also get a visual indicator of the swell out in the Pacific from WaveWatch Costa Rica.
Surfing is generally best in Tamarindo in the 2 hours before high tide. If you are a total novice, you may want to go on a mid to lower tide as you should be practicing controlling your board and paddling into already broken waves. You will have more space to practice if you don't go when the waves are best. Be on the lookout for beginners who crash and lose control of their boards.
More advanced surfers will probably want to move to the larger waves that the Tamarindo area has to offer. Paddling across the estuary to the southern end of Playa Grande brings you to a surf break called "Casitas." If you feel like making a long walk, you can walk to the north end of Playa Grande and surf the break at "Tortugas."
You can also walk to Playa Langosta, where the waves get bigger. You can take the beach and walk south around Punta San Francisco or take Calle Langosta and go right at the fork. There is a beach access next to Horizontes del Mar condos. Be aware that Langosta has rocks on the northern side of the estuary. Refer to the Tamarindo Map for these locations.
You may also want to visit Playa Avellanas and Playa Negra, both of which can be reached with a rental car. A 4x4 will be necessary to get to Avellanas and Negra during the rainy season (May through November). You can also take boat trips that depart from Tamarindo to Witch's Rock and Ollie's Point.