Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast (issued Monday 28th April)

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thermalben started the topic in Monday, 28 Apr 2014 at 4:34pm

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 28th April)

Best Days: Thurs: fun south swell with good winds, mainly after lunch. Sat/Sun: solid but windy south swell, possibly quite large. Next Mon/Tues/Wed: plenty of strong south swell.

Recap: Small combo of swells Saturday, building Sunday with a windy short range south swell, easing rapidly overnight for this morning. No sign of any new southerly swell at the present time (although a late pulse is still on the cards). 

A few interesting observations from Saturday - in my neck of the woods (Northern Beaches) Saturday was pretty uninspiring with tiny surf observed by a couple of reliable sources (myself included), however our Cronulla surf report as well as observations from the Bondi surfcam showed clean 2-3ft sets in the morning. However, very small surf was also reported on the Central Coast. Without enough time for a proper hindcast, I’m not quite sure if this was a small unexpected pulse of new swell or the lingering remains of Friday’s south swell - although buoy data shows a small S’ly swell at 15 seconds, which may have originated from a small fetch related to the progression of weather systems below Tasmania mid-late last week.

Also, with regards to today’s forecast solid south swell - unfortunately this swell was downgraded significantly overnight on Friday (I updated the previous forecast notes regarding this situation over the weekend, and again this morning).

The main reason for the downgrade was that the fetch strength had weakened considerably from the model runs on display late last week, and also refocused in alignment more towards the NE (aimed further away from the East Coast) with the fetch sitting more across the central/eastern Tasman, rather than the central/western Tasman. And because this system was only ever forecast to be positioned on the periphery of our swell window, it only took a minor tweak in its alignment to significantly impact the surf outlook. We'll have to chalk this one up to experience.

This week (Apr 29 - May 2)

It’s very hard to have much faith in the current model data when the last few days have swung so wildly in their predictions for today and tomorrow.

Right now we should be seeing an increase in long range southerly swell (generated by a deep low that pushed through the lower Tasman Sea on Sunday) but there’s nothing on the Sydney buoy and no discernible difference in observations via our Bondi surfcam. Although Murphy's Law means the minute this forecast is posted, the lines will start pouring through (sorry for the hold up!).

Nevertheless I still think we’re looking at a late increase at the coast ahead of an overnight peak in size and and a steady easing trend throughout Tuesday. South facing beaches will pick up the most size, and mainly in the early morning so you’ll need to aim for a dawn patrol for the biggest and best waves. Freshening N’ly winds will confine the best waves to northern corners.

As for size, expect inconsistent 2-3ft surf at exposed south facing beaches and across much of the Hunter early in the day, with much smaller waves at most open beaches. Smaller surf will pad out the afternoon with possibly the addition of a minor N’ly windswell (mainly in the south of the state).

On Wednesday, a vigorous front will cross the region, bringing gusty W’ly winds ahead of a fresh SW change during the day. There may be a small lingering pulse of leftover southerly swell (about a foot) and possibly some tiny NE windswell but on the whole it’s not worth getting too excited about. The timing of the change is crucial to any chances of a late increase in short range S’ly swell - the most likely scenario is that we’ll see a few lines on dusk with a more prominent increase overnight (still, keep an eye on the surf cams as there’s a chance for a late dash).

Thursday should deliver plenty of south swell in the 3ft+ range at south facing beaches. Winds will be a little mixed early morning - probably SW early morning (with a lingering S'ly wobble at exposed beaches) but it’ll ease by lunchtime and go variable into the afternoon. So it’s well worth a surf from about the middle of the day onwards. There could also be a slight upgrade in the models for this swell so tune in on Wednesday to see the latest data.

As for Friday - a complex system approaching from the west will swing winds around to the northwest at strength, and with a rapidly easing south swell there may not be many options on offer. So it looks like we’ll see very small clean conditions to finish the working week.

This weekend (May 3-4)

Since late last week, model guidance has been rather honed in on a major Tasman Low developing off the South Coast early this weekend. It’s still holding true but right now it’s hard to have total confidence in the likely size and timing of the resulting swell.

Either way we’re looking at very windy conditions accompanying the swell - initially gale force W’ly on Saturday morning, tending SW throughout the day as a south swell building rapidly in the afternoon towards a peak on Sunday with lighter W'ly winds.

At this stage I think a solid 6ft or more is likely at south facing beaches at the peak of the swell (probably early-mid Sunday) however we’ll need a few more days to firm up the specifics. 

Longer term (May 5 onwards)

Looking beyond the weekend, and there are a lot of fronts expected to back up in a classic winteresque pattern. This will ensure a steady supply of strong south swells right through most of next week.