Surfing in Santa Maria is never an easy thing to explain. Is it good? It can be. Is it consistent? No, not really. Is it better for short boards or longboarding? Well, both really.
So while the waves here are similar to those found on better known Sao Miguel, the breaks here have their own identity and special charm. In general, what the waves lack in consistency, they make up for in terms of crowd. And for the lucky few who return here year after year, who consistently seem to time the swells, they are always amazed by the quality of the waves and lack of crowds; that said, it's rare that we get epic days, and the days we do, are the ones that everyone calls in sick and you find that Santa Maria has many surfers than anyone thought.
We never recommend Santa Maria as a surf destination. If you have only a week to surf, you want to find a location with consistent waves. Many people show up here, having heard the surf is good and uncrowded, only to find messy onshore conditions, no waves at all, or slabby reef breaks with rocks on take off and exit.
That said, the lack of crowds, and the spirit of the island, make it a special place to surf. So if one has time, is easy going, and not chasing world-class waves, they'll find plenty of days with good conditions. And yes, you can surf equally on a shortboard, mid-length, and longboard. Anyone telling you different, hasn't spent enough time here.
As far as surf schools we have none. Sao Miguel is the place for that. For rentals, you can find what you need here at MONK, and we can help you there. We limit the amount of boards we rent so as to not fill up the breaks and recommend spots/conditions based on people's experience and comfort. Often times, you'll find us in the water :)