Don't sit and wait for waves. Chase waves down look at any of the really good guys like waldo, vince, etc. They all get called wave magnets all the time. It is because they are constantly paddling when they are in the water constantly chasing waves.
yeah being in good paddling shape makes such a big difference. I know when I am in good shape i can expand my catch zone by like 15 yards to the left or right. When I am out of shape its like 5 yards left to right. When you can chase down waves your wave count goes way up.
Also, I've noticed for my self push-ups, sit-ups, and pull-ups helps me stay in shape out of the water.
Push-ups- To stay quick popping up. For those late drops.
Sit-ups- Keep that core strong. For those nice snaps and such.
Pull-ups- Keep that back strong- for paddling and quick bursts of speed.
i can give you a million tipz for paddling faster but I have 1 big question.
is your body naturally built for:
swimming/paddling=is your wing span longer then your height + low body fat/muscle index
this is what I call the HEART with limbs attached. some people are naturally built to paddle/swim. some can train all day-everyday and not get any better.
what I can tell you is that I like to relax when paddling through the line-up with deep long strokes. when I am in the line-up, I constantly paddle into position by looking at rips, crowds, swells, etc. when a set is approaching paddle fast and use your feet.
personally, I like running and swimming for conditioning. weights are crap. paddling is an aerobic-to-aerobic threshold activity. my little brother is one of the best paddlers in the country. he likes to be lazy, skate, ride a mo-ped around and surf every bump in the ocean!
also anything that works out shoulders, arms, and upper back.
Other than paddling itself, I would agree with this. As Micah said too, running can help your cardio stamina. It won't help you paddle better but it will help your body withstand/recover from paddling better.