In 1985, a driver's ED teacher told me, "If you look out the window at a dog, you'll drive off the road!" She was right. Same goes with paddling. If you don't want hit that piling, wall or buddy, look where you want to go and your body will compensate.
For those that have taken our Tidal Rapids class or do river paddling, you should have learned to ferry across current. This means angling your board at approx a 45 degree angle up current, then watching your destination. If you look away from your destination (up or down stream) the current will push you away from your destination.
|Paddler ferrying tidal rapids at Deception Pass near Seattle|
And don't look at what you fear. Years ago, a whitewater kayaking buddy saw a big rock he didn't want to hit - but he locked his gaze on it, and run into it thus capsizing his boat. I've seen many nervous beginning students do the same. They'll lock their gaze on an obstruction vs looking where they want to go. We teach to look and turn away from the obstruction or worse case, stop asap (back paddling).
When performing turns such as the Cross Bow, look in the direction your paddle is going when crossing over our nose/bow. Many look straight during the turn thus limiting their flexibility and result of the turn.
In learning to surf a SUP, we may contradict the above by looking at the wave behind you as you paddle forward. This allows you to determine when to pick up speed, where to be on the wave and look for other surfers - while paddling towards the beach (using a vertical shaft). That conversation is for another future lesson.
Check out our SUP classes in Seattle - Beginning to advanced instruction including freighter and tug wave surfing, coastal surfing, rivers and racing, plus PSUPA Certification.