Great, good thread
I think there are many ways to obtain this, as I've gone a different path - but ever since I learned, have always chased waves as my main goal and liking
Riding small waves in say 10 knots with a 9m2 is fantastic - eventhough you often slice through, or have to because of chop and small distance between, but you can still whip the cutback on the face of a small wave/crest, or at least try to as you (sorry, "I") relatively often fail if going for it.
I have chosen by experience, some quite different preferences -
For small waves, a LONG mast.
Have had both 80 and 90cm, but chosen a 100cm now.
When I went from 80, and had ordered a much more expensive 100cm (race) mast, I was really thinking: Damn if it will make turns wider and feel less "awesome" when carving, as in theory it should turn wider.
But I found to my surprise that I could not feel any disadvantage whatsoever - in fact I could often carve tighter on the longer mast, because of more clearance so you could push harder without the risk of ventilation or the board catching
For "travelling" in waves, the short mast is really bad (IMO, at least for me).
You have to get used to ride lower, yes, like Andrew also points out - but this is not a problem when experienced on several masts, you get used to changing your "default" ride height..
But ventilation happens sooo easy with a short mast, or you will hit the crest of the waves with your board - so the longer the better, no doubt at all when talking about riding in chop waves (straight).
Also more clearance (safety margin) on the waveface, so ventilation wont happen, as ventilation will always lead to disaster
The depth is of course the risk, as small waves occur (and only curl) at reefs or sand banks.
I mostly ride at sand bank spots, so the trick is to be so confident that you never touch down when carving DTL, and IF you are about to or make a mistake, you jump off your board (thus strapless almost a must).
This means, if (when) you crash, you have to boarddrag a bit out, in order to start again
But you can ride and do turns on small waves where it is relatively shallow, when you just stay "up" - quite fun and a good challenge so you get even better
If I touch down, even if ever so slightly just touching the top of the wave with my board - I almost feel like I've failed totally and feel lousy
So riding sometimes with the board on the surface is NOT an option IMO, and seems more like some misfit between hydrofoiling and waveboard waveriding.
Others would call it an awesome compromise - so different likings I know, and find it great that it works !
Personally I ride both hydrofoil and waveboards in waves, and prefer not to mix them up, just like the mutants have died many years ago, as better having either a full on TT or full on waveboard..
So my short mast is used in marginal onshore winds now, as here you can not get out to start because the kite will drop if trying to drag out - not possible.
So a short mast and you can get up from where you can go out keeping the kite in the air in 8's just overhead, and then start without hitting the bottom - to get out to deeper water.
And in marginal winds, our water is always flat - so a short mast is great then
As said, the opposite choice, but our goal is the same just different paths, to have fun in the small waves in low water
At first I liked a big lifting wing, as one could just put the pace down.
This still goes fine often.
But it seems, the more experience you get, the faster wing you find works even in small waves - and if a bit bigger waves, faster wings that also TURNS faster is awesome
A lifting wing is good though, but I would much rather use a faster turning wing, even if a bit smaller thus requiring a bit more speed.
So a wing with a low span is my preference, turns much faster and I find in contrast to your findings, that they turn way faster and easier, and no "bubbles" in hard carves.
I dont like too low AR wings though, so it will have to be smaller in area because of that (just me, I know)
But in low winds, around or less than 10 knots I agree, a bigger wing is better and the choice.
Swing weight - like Starsky says, really important.
Prefer using a light board, smallish, and round edges so you only have to fear the foil when you crash in a wave.
Agree, not too long fuselage is good, as you will often hit the bottom when starting in low water "tail low", after a crash in the small waves - and maybe it turns faster.
I am maybe just babbling on - but I love having fun in waves, and cool to see different approaches