Poor weekend ahead; small building E'ly swells mid-week; long period E'ly swell next Fri
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 17th February)
Best Days: Wed: building trade swell with winds best suited to outer Qld points. Fri/Sat/Sun: small to moderate long period E'ly swell, best aimed towards SE Qld; likely with moderate SE thru' E/SE winds
Recap: Small swells and mainly fresh NE winds (save an early period of SW winds Thursday morning) has offered little in the way of quality surf to either Northern NSW or South East Queensland over the past few days.
This weekend (Feb 18th - 19th)
Let’s cut to the chase - northerly winds (along with a lack of swell) will severely limit quality surf options across all coasts this weekend.
In fact, these local northerlies will be our major swell source for the weekend, at least in Northern NSW, specifically the Mid North Coast. We’ve only got small levels of trade swell ahead for SE Qld and there’s no new south swell on the cards.
I could go on at length about the possible surfable options but really, the only timeframe to consider surfing will be early Saturday morning (small leftover swells in all areas, possible brief NW breeze) and then maybe Sunday afternoon across the lower half of the Northern NSW coast as an approaching trough from the south weakens the pressure gradient and creates a period of lighter winds.
Saturday’s strengthening northerly may whip up some small local windswell for the Northern NSW region, but it’ll ease in sync with the abating wind speed through Sunday. Exposed southern ends may pick up some rideable options throughout Sunday as the wind backs off - our model has well under 10kts across the Mid North Coast from lunchtime onwards so it’ll be worth keeping an eye on the obs and the surfcams for signs of life.
But if you have any other worthwhile options away from the coast this weekend, they’ll be worth exercising instead.
Next week (Feb 20th onwards)
Well, the models had been hinting at two major regions of swell production for early next week for quite some time now, but in classic fashion they’ve both been downgraded in the latest model runs.
A trough across Southern NSW this weekend will evolve into a broad low pressure system in the Lower Tasman Sea on Monday, however it looks like it’ll have a couple of centres, neither of which may end up having much strength within our swell window for enough to time to generate any meaningful energy. Had the low been positioned closer to the mainland, it'd be a different story, but this system looks like it'll be far away and travelling unfavourably SE through the swell window.
Therefore, our southerly swell sources for Northern NSW during the middle of next week are somewhat on the small side: Wednesday is probably the pick at the moment, maybe some inconsistent 2-3ft sets at south facing beaches south of Byron Bay. Don’t get your hopes up.
There’s a chance for an upgrade if the models change the configuration of the low but right now I’m keeping my expectations in check.
Across the South Pacific, a series of merging easterly fetches south of Fiji have been slightly downgraded and also shunted a little further east, which will result in a slightly smaller swell with a later building trend and peak. Model guidance has a low building trend from Tuesday through to a peak on Thursday; 2-3ft sets are likely at most open beaches at the height of the swell, maybe a little smaller across the Mid North Coast. Again, this ain't a swell to travel large distances for.
A ridge will also build across the Queensland coast early next week. It’s now expected to be a little weaker but should persist in the swell window for a little longer. This will increase local windswells about the coast through Tuesday and Wednesday though no major size or quality is expected. Southern Queensland's outer points may pick up some small runners but it won’t be worth any major effort.
Otherwise, the broad interaction between a large tropical depression and an oversized South Pacific high pressure system east of New Zealand I was discussing in Monday's and Wednesday's notes now looks like it’ll form a little further south.. which is now right on the periphery of the New Zealand swell shadow. Bugger!
It still looks like SE Qld coasts will pick up a reasonable percentage of energy, though the very large travel distance will certainly erode some of the size as the swell reaches the Australian mainland. However, confidence decreases considerably from this source as you track south of about Byron Bay as increasing southerly latitude (in Australia) pushes further inside the swell shadow. For example, I’m not expecting much, if any energy to reach anywhere south of Seal Rocks, so you’ll have to hedge your bets on size prospects between here and the NSW/Qld border.
At this stage we’re still looking at an arrival overnight Thursday, building through Friday, holding into Saturday and maybe even Sunday though the peak will probably occur sometime later Friday and/or early Saturday morning. At this stage I’m expecting very inconsistent sets in the 4ft range across SE Qld beaches, with incrementally smaller surf south from Byron.
It’s too early to have any confidence in the local winds, however long range modelling is suggesting a developing ridge through the Coral Sea (typical for this time of the year) which would drive fresh SE thru' E/SE winds across most regions, and may also contribute some short range swell - which would be very welcome as it’ll fill in the otherwise lengthy gaps between sets.
Anyway, it’s all still quite some time away so let’s wait and see how Monday’s model runs are looking.
Have a good weekend, see you Monday!