Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 19th February)
Best Days: Thurs: small peaky NE swell. Sun: fun S'ly swell with OK winds early. Mon/Tues/Wed: strong southerly groundswell with great conditions.
Recap: Average short range S/SE swell on Tuesday to 3ft at exposed south facing beaches in Sydney and 4ft in the Hunter, but with generally light winds so consequently OK surface conditions. Very small leftovers today with light winds and little incentive to get wet.
This week (Feb 20-21)
Still not a great outlook for the rest of the week. A deepening trough of low pressure across inland NSW will strengthen a broad northerly flow well offshore today and tonight, and this should generate a small NE swell for Sydney beaches on Thursday.
Despite the scope and duration of the fetch, it’s not expected to be aimed very well into the Sydney coast (or the South Coast for that matter) so we’ll see mainly sideband energy glancing the coastal margin, probably 2ft+ at exposed NE facing beaches, and winds are expected to swing from a pre-dawn nor’wester to a fresh sou’wester breeze as a change slide up the coast.
Winds may however swing south then sou'east during the day so aim for the morning session as it’ll be cleanest and will also have the most size.
Friday looks potentially interesting, but the timing is a little tricky for both winds and swell. We’ve got a deep, complex low pressure system developing immediately south of Tasmania at the moment, and it’s going to drive strong winds, large swells and cold air across the SE corner of the country over the coming days. However, the latest model data has slightly shifted the low to the west, meaning that the core of the fetch will be tucked in behind the shadow of Tasmania, initially aimed outside of the Tasman Sea’s south swell window.
However, a broad fetch of westerly gales existing eastern Bass Strait (one of my favourite sources of funky swells) will generate a brief pulse of energy that’s due to glance the southern NSW coast throughout Friday, probably during the middle of the day. Obviously, most of this swell will be aimed towards New Zealand, however we should see some spread back towards the mainland - albeit just a very small percentage of the bulk energy.
I’m not particularly confident on size estimates from this source (as ideally I’d like a smidge more south in the fetch than is being modelled) however I wouldn’t be surprised if exposed south facing beaches pick up a few stray 2ft+ sets through the middle of Friday and into the afternoon. Due to the source of the swell and the associated land shadowing, these events often won’t register much action south of about Wollongong (so expect smaller surf in the Far South), but conversely, Newcastle is an unreal south swell magnets and often out-performs model expectations. So, we may see a few bigger waves across the Hunter in the afternoon.
Unfortunately, early morning SW winds are due to swing SE during the day and this may mask any quality from what’s only an outside chance for a small fun surf anyway. However, keep an eye on the Bondi surfcam for signs of life and pounce on your favourite south swell magnet if you see anything of interest.
This weekend (Feb 22-23)
As the deep Tasmanian low clears south-east of the region on Friday, strong SW winds will occupy the southern Tasman Sea, followed by a stronger secondary front into Saturday. This will generate an extended series of south swells for the southern NSW coast over the weekend and into early next week (of which Monday looks to be the pick at this stage).
For the weekend, we’re looking at average waves on Saturday as a ridge drives moderate to fresh S/SE winds across most regions. The swell will however be on the build and should reach somewhere around 3-4ft at exposed south facing beaches by the afternoon (smaller elsewhere due to the swell direction). Similar sized waves are expected on Sunday but with better conditions as the ridge relaxes and local winds abate. So, aim for an early surf Sunday morning at a beach with good southerly exposure and you’ll do OK.
Next week (Feb 24 onwards)
The secondary front working its way through the lower Tasman Sea on Saturday will kick up a stronger pulse of south swell for Monday morning (actually, the Far South may see this swell arriving late Sunday). As this fetch will have been working on an already active sea state, it’ll kick up a slightly bigger swell than what we would have expected compared to if it were a solitary system acting on a quiet ocean.
Wave heights should reach a good 4-5ft at south facing beaches early Monday morning, and winds will be light and variable tending N’ly during the day. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a handful of offshore reefs and exposed bombies pick up a few rogue 6ft+ sets at times. However, as is always the case under south swells, expect smaller waves at beaches without open southerly exposure.
Following Monday, a series of secondary swells will then fill in on Tuesday and Wednesday thanks to a couple of quick fronts migrating through the swell window. The computer models are mixed on how strong these followup fronts will be - in fact there’s a suggestion from the European model that it could deliver solid surf as equally strong as the Monday event - but let’s wait to see how Friday’s model trends pull through. For now, it’s fair to assume that we’re looking at an excellent run of quality south swell from Monday right through until Wednesday. Well worth booking in a couple of flexi days and aiming for a road mission, I reckon.
At this stage the second half of next week looks uninteresting as a large blocking high deflects all major swell generating activity outside of our swell window. This will probably result in easing wave heights through until the following weekend. More on this in Friday’s update.