A common mistake that I see a lot of beginners do is lay on top of their board either too far back or to far forward. It really is a subtle balancing act when you lay on your surfboard. If you are too far up on the board you will pearl the nose under water and possibly end up sliding off across the front of the board. What’s far more common is for newbies to position themselves too far back which allows them to paddle in the water okay, but they will never catch a wave and the board will end up getting away from them. The ideal spot to lay on the board for paddling and catching waves is just far enough up from the center so that you can arch your back a little as you paddle and the nose stays just a couple inches at the most out of the water. It really is just a matter of feeling your balance and paying attention to how you body shifts weight on your surfboard.
Momentum and Speed
Another very common problem I see beginning surfers make is not taking the speed of the wave into consideration when the paddle after one in hopes of catching it. It is imperative to always pay attention to your surroundings when out in the ocean, but while surfing you must constantly scan the nearby horizon for waves coming in. The time to paddle after wave is before it gets to you not when it is right up on you. You must position yourself in a manner that allows you to paddle in front of the incoming wave so that your speed matches the waves and it will then more likely grab a hold of your board and allow you to catch the wave. A good idea is to paddle out just beyond the break zone and sit on your board so you can see the horizon farther out to allow for maximun preparation time for the next set.
Standing and Leg Stance
You can get everything else right when going surfing, but if you never stand up or stay up on your surfboard then you will never really ride a wave. Its important to practice getting up from laying on your stomach to your feet in a quick sweeping motion that takes no longer than a second or two. You should practice this routinely at home or in your yard until its second nature. Many surfers learned by getting on their knees first then going to a standing position. While this might seem easier at first, it is incorrect and a bad habit to break if you start out that way. It is far better to learn to go from laying flat to standing in one movement even if it takes longer to learn. This will give your a quicker start when the waves momentum grabs your board and believe me this will allow you to not only catch the wave before the competition does, but will guarantee you more options on how you will end up riding that totally awesome wave dude.