Surfers sometimes get described as "laid back," but it could be more like "bad back" for the unprepared novice. When you have to stand up and keep your balance for that long, maintaining strong muscles and a good stance may help you feel healthier afterwards. If back pain is preventing you from hopping on the board in the first place, then a professional opinion might be just the thing to give you the confidence for a new hobby.
Even a first-time surfer can probably guess that surfing works best with a strong back. Before trying surfing for the first time, it might be a good idea to use some specific exercises for strengthening muscles in these areas. Working with a professional gives surfers a verified source of information.
Strong or recurrent pain could require alternate surfing methods that feel lighter on the back. A 2010 study in the North American Journal of Sports Physical Therapy suggested a different approach to standing on the surfboard for those who get low back injuries – a stance called the "knee pop-up."
According to this source, the knee pop-up is a favored choice for back pain sufferers using a long board. In this scenario, the swimmer starts out kneeling before transitioning to the full stand, lessening the possible pain of moving straight into this position. The source did say that testing surfers to make sure they're adequately flexible could help with the knee pop-up. Other options could include simply using a paddle to offset some of the pain.
For more help considering possible treatment options, find a chiropractor who understands sports-related back conditions and will give you the chance to try something new.