Advice All the advice given to you is as good as your going to get. Chances are you’ll by one and paddle for a season and the eye/curiosity will kick in and off to a new boat you will go. Just remember it’s all about the paddling, so have fun in your search and enjoy the new boat!
At 5'9", 160lbs I thought the Gulfstream felt huge, and was much happier in the Slipstream.
Avocet, Romany, T165 are all worth trying. I've had an Avocet for years and so can't be objective about it -- we're old friends now, and our personalities match. She feels a bit bored going straight on flat water but really perks up with waves under her keel.
another vote for impex You’re pretty close to my size (I’m 6’ 180), and both the Gulfstream and the Assateaque felt too large for me.
I would also recommend the Currituck/Montauk as well as the Force 4. I demo’d all three. The Montauk was too small, while the Currticuk and the Force 4 fit pretty much perfectly. I ended up going with the Force 4 because it just felt a bit “better” to me. I don’t think anyone would characterize it as a playboat, but I find it to be plenty responsive (particularly on edge) and just an overall great boat. I’m probably still what you’d consider a relative “beginner” in this sport, but I’ve never felt that the Force was too much boat, or that it was holding me back.
It will be lost on them til the day they do get in a real surf boat. “What was I waiting for?” It blows doors on playboats, river boats and especially sea kayaks. Ya, ya, I surf my sea boat too, once in a while, but what a dog compared to the surfer. Bow wow wow arf.