Just wanted to post some surf paddling learning observations I got in Barbados last week (sorry, but somebody had to do it) using "training" kayaks (ie. sit on tops).
I found I learned more in one day of playing in four to five foot waves and breakers and warm seas using a sit on top (Wilderness Kaos with leg straps) than I learned all last season (which was my first paddling season) in my closed deck sea kayaks under much lighter cold water conditions, worrying about flipping, reentry, bailing, swimming to shore, etc.
I found the SOT ease of recovery allowed me to concentrate on paddle skills, braces and really pushing myself down bigger and bigger waves. Flip, who cares, just jump on and paddle.
I could play with bracing and edging until I found what worked, and how much you actually need to edge and commit to a high brace when broached by a wave (a lot), and how fast the flip is when you don't (fast).
I know not all skills are transferrable from a small surf kayak to a longer sea kayak but the reinforcement of required technique and speed of response is quite a powerful learning tool.
I also watched a group of closed deck surf kayakers receiving quite expert instruction, and they spent much of their time in the water swimming and doing assisted reentry with their buddies after a capsize, rolling not yet having been mastered.
The SOT might become a training device of increasing significance, allowing you to try conditions you would otherwise not go near in a conventional boat. But it needs to be set up with straps so you can hang on to the boat in a brace.
Also, after that experience I was amazed at how safe the self bailing concept is, recognizing all its drawbacks. Its got to grow, provided better self bailing designs can be achieved.
Its absolutely worth a try, and a lot of fun.
Ray in Canada.