Catching a wave on a shortboard requires two actions: paddling and popping up. Paddling is crucial to catching a wave on a shortboard because of the limited length of the board's waterline. A shorter waterline length results in greater drag, which means slower acceleration and a lower top speed. The shorter the board, the earlier you begin paddling. A shorter waterline also means you can't use your feet to help you pop up. Popping up is dependent soley upon your arms and core. However, once you are up on a shortboard, you can generate fast action and tight curves on the face of a wave with less energy.
Paddling to Accelerate
Walk out into the ocean until the water is at your waist, lie on the board flat on your stomach and paddle out beyond the break using your arms. The break is the area where the waves develop white caps, curl over themselves and crash into a foam pile. Stop paddling once you reach the distance offshore where the waves are swelling and rolling, but not breaking.
Rotate your board until the rails -- sides -- are parallel to the waves, in a position where the waves are rolling under you from right to left or left to right, but not from back to front or vice-versa. Turn your head toward the shoulder farthest from the beach and watch the waves swell and roll toward you. As each wave rolls under your board -- lifting you to the crest -- look toward the horizon at the waves developing, moving toward you, and then under you.
Select a wave in the distance. Count the number of waves between you and the wave you want, then rotate the nose of your board to face the shore. Slide your body toward the back of your board until one quarter of it is in front of your head. Count the waves as they pass beneath you.
Start paddling once the last wave in front of the one you want swells up beneath you. As you paddle, keep your board moving perpendicular to the wave as you crest and then drop into the trough in front of your wave. As the wave you've selected swells beneath you, keep paddling with your arms until you feel your board begin to slide down the face of it.
Place your hands next to your hips on the rails of the board the moment you feel the shortboard begin to accelerate down the face of the wave. Raise your shoulders and chest off the top of the board. Put your head back and chin up, but keep your elbows cocked. Do not straighten them.
Center all the pressure on the heels of your hands as you grip the rails and on the caps of your knees at the back of the board. Arch your rear end just enough to remove the weight from your thighs and hips. On the other hand, do not lower your chest and head.
Explode off your hands, thrusting your upper body skyward. In the same motion, slide your hips under you, your legs bent 90 degrees at the knees. Plant one foot ahead of the other, shoulder-width apart, your toes facing the rails. Rotate your shoulders slightly -- at a 45-degree angle in relation to the rails, as opposed to parallel to them -- opening them to the fall line your board is tracking.