I ride a hyperlite Marek 145 with system mounts and marek boots. This is by far the most bada$$ setup I've ever had! Super stoked with this new board. I've been riding for two months and my rididng is already leaps and bounds ahead of where it's been any other year. Going to the gym in the off season helps!!!
There's not one board company that's any better than the others, its just a matter of preference. Initially it's the graphics you like and the setup you think will be comfortable for you. In regards to progression, when you're beginning, center fins or deeper outer fins help shorten the learning curve of edge control. The big this is to really focus on the basics (heelside and toeside edge control, riding switch as well as regular). Always try to have fun, and never be afraid to try new things! Best of luck with the new setup. Get to rippin!