Checking www.surfline.com is a great place find out what the waves are doing. Find the surf spot you are interested in going to, see the live camera, check the tides, winds and wave size. Its also a great spot to watch the pro surf videos... #goals.
If you want to surf Venice Beach: be sure to check the wind & you can pretty much count on that spot to have great whitewash if you are learning how to pop up & catch small waves.
Sunset beach is best with med tide, if its too high(no waves) too low(exposed rocks)
Malibu also has rocks, beginning surfers be aware this spot(SURFRIDER) gets busy.