I'd say that I am a novice surfer right now. I can pop up fine, start to do a little carving, but I can't ride down the line and carve the face of the wave yet like I see more intermediate and advanced surfers doing.
How do I get better at this? (bottom turns, top turns, riding down the line etc.)
What are the steps to doing the things I listed above?
Practice carving on white wash (going straight), before you take it to the curls. Once you get carving down to a science, take it to the break. When I was learning, I found it difficult to carve on the face - learning on the wash was a lot easier.
When I was still a beginner (5 years later, I can proudly call myself a beginner +), I was having this problem of doing a bottom turn, ride up the face of the wave, but by the time I would make a turn to ride it back down, it was too late and I would lag behind the wave (not stuck on the white water, but actually behind the wave).
I started making the turn to ride down the face earlier. and I started improving from that. This may help.
Also, if you feel the wave is not carrying you after you go up the face, try to work with your body weight. on smaller mushy surf I find it helps a lot to keep a very low instance, otherwise depending on your board, the wave won't carry you.
1. Watch as many videos and good surfers as you can in person. Next, try not to be concerned with spray, vertical-ness of the turn rather the bio-michanics of what is going on. (I.E., pivoting the hips, looking over your shoulder, extending or retracting the back foot. And also where the pressure is on the heels vs toes).
2. Get a coach, this sounds corny but it works. Little did I know all the mistakes and good things I as doing. Just b/c it feels good doesnt mean it looks good or is proper.
3. Buy a longboard. I mean a longboard skate board like a Sector 9. Start bombing hills and start getting used to the motions of pivoting your hips and the toes/heel side pressure thing I was talking about. When you get more advanced you can start sliding out the tail and getting a true bottom to top turn feeling. You can even take it up step further and slid out to 180s/360s. This will give you the right motion for the airs/nose picks everyone is obsessed with.
4. Skate the bowl. Although, I haven't done this myself. I've seen my friend improve their surfing by skating the bowl.
Let me know if you want/need any more tips and tricks.
Get a carving skateboard and practice carving whenever you get a chance, do the same with surfing.
You never mentioned what you are riding. If you are riding something like a Simmons, then of course you are going to have trouble carving.
Most importantly: Keep your eyes on where you are going, not where you have been. It will help you keep a lot more momentum and really draw out your turns.