Re: paddling position
Whether your feet hang off or not is not quite the answer I'd give. What's more important is the orientation of the board in the water when you are paddling to the outback or to catch a wave. You want the nose of the board to almost be under the water surface. When this is correct and you're paddling out or up / down current, the nose is just slightly submerged by the swells that you encounter. So sometimes the nose is just above the water and sometimes it is just below the water. At this point, you need to remember where you are on the board. Maybe your chin lines up with a decal or something like that. Your feet may hang off or they may not.
If you watch short board surfers, you'll see the only way they can paddle is with their feet and, sometimes, legs hanging off the board. They paddle and when they pop up they draw their feet to the board through their arms.
If you watch longboard surfers, you'll see their feet are on the board. They may be able to use their feet as they draw their legs through their arms to popup, but short boarders demonstrate it isn't an absolute requirement. If your feet are on the board when the nose in the correct place in the water, then it's OK.
Your comment about pearling makes me wonder if you are often catching waves too late or have bad waves to surf on. Yes, many of us find we have to combat pearling every now and then. But, it's usually because we take off late. You don't really want to be pealing because it messes up the popup and going on with the ride. But, what say you are doing to overcome pearling is the correct thing - raise body with arms & arch back to put weight rearward.
Question for you: where are you surfing?