I can only address the intimidation with bigger and choppy waves:
Personally, I feel much more comfortable out in the larger surf without
my board. I have had years of experience ocean swimming but only a couple actually surfing.
Without the board, I see a larger wave coming and push myself much further down to the "peaceful zone" and come out the back after it has passed. With a board, it makes it more difficult.
However, having the confidence without it, some how helps me when I am out there with it.
My advice, just go out body surfing in the bigger waves until you feel more comfortable and confident, then add the board into the equation.
Being intimidated is not a bad thing, it means you are aware that the wave can hurt you! So respect it, build your confidence incrementally and slowly
. If it seems to scary don't push it, not worth it!**Disclaimer**
This all assumes you are a strong swimmer. Make sure there is a lifeguard on duty and let him know what you are up to. If there is a life guard on duty, I go up to his tower and let him know I'm a beginner surfer and will be practicing my turtle ducks (for example).
As far as the paddling and catching the waves sounds like you may be more advanced than me so can't help you there!