Your paddle isn’t a rudder.
Surfing is surfing whether you’re on a shortboard, longboard or paddle board. The mechanics of surfing don’t change when you put a paddle in your hands.
When I work with intermediate paddle surfers the majority of time is spent on correcting improper form in turns. There’s a reason for this. It is easier to teach/learn turns by using the paddle as a brake/rudder. The mental representation is easy to understand, think turning a canoe. It pulls weight back and to the inside rail, which initiates direction change. But, just like in the canoe, it slows you down.
Proper surfing’s goal is conservation of speed.
Wind works on water to create energy in wave form. Surfing is about maximizing and redirecting that energy. Better surfers go faster, make more sections, utilize more of the wave face. The type of turn used is dictated by the section and potential energy of the position.
Bottom turns and roundhouse cutbacks are rail turns, initiated at or just in front of the front fin – more fin and rail in the water means less slip, which equates to more speed.
Snaps and tail slides are done high on the wave in steep sections – areas of high potential energy. You can burn your speed if you’re at the lip of the wave, as the potential energy will allow you to accelerate out of turns.
Watch the video below of Kai Bates through the lens of conservation of speed. Watch where he places each maneuver, how he uses the paddle, rails and where his feet are for different types of turns. This is a strong mental representation frame to help in decision making in wave riding. Anders Ericsson, author of Peak, was on the podcast yesterday (should be out in about 2 weeks) and we spend a good deal of time on types of mental representations. Changing the way you think about and approach skill acquisition will significantly ramp up your learning curve… And I think you’ll enjoy training at a much deeper level!