South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast (issued Wednesday 19th March)

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thermalben started the topic in Wednesday, 19 Mar 2014 at 5:56pm

South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 19th March)

Best Days: Thurs/Fri: building trade swell with fun lumpy waves on the points. Sun/Mon/Tues: very, very inconsistent E'ly groundswell with variable conditions.

Recap: Slowly easing E’ly tending E/SE swell with early light winds tending moderate onshore.

This week (Mar 20-21)

The entire forecast period is pretty dynamic for the SE Qld and Northern NSW region. But the rest of this week will see a fairly bog standard upswing in trade swell, courtesy of the recent strengthening tradewinds south of New Caledonia.

As discussed in Monday's notes, because of the source of this trade swell is between New Caledonia and the mainland (in the southern Coral Sea), we’ll see the largest waves from this source along the Sunny Coast (reaching 3-5ft by Friday), with smaller surf as you progress southwards into the Gold Coast (3ft+), the Northern NSW (2-3ft+) and Mid North (2ft+) regions. Expect smaller surf to kick start Thursday morning ahead of the upwards trend.

Wind-wise, we'll see mainly E/SE winds in SE Qld and Northern NSW but these winds will be much lighter in the Mid North Coast (tending NE in the far south), with a chance for early morning offshores south of about Ballina or (more likely) Yamba.  Small pockets of early light winds are also possible around the southern Gold and Tweed Coasts but overall your best options will be to head towards the points and expect a few wobbles here and there.

This weekend (Mar 22-23)

Friday’s trade swell is expected to trend slowly downwards through Saturday, and with a similar wind regime as the end of the week (E/SE in the north, E’ly across the Northern Rivers, NE in the far south) you’ll have to keep your expectations low - surf early when there’s a chance for a brief period of light variable winds at dawn in most areas.

On Sunday, we’re going to see the arrival of a long period E’ly groundswell, currently being generated right now by a deep monsoon trough near the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. 

In fact, embedded within the northern periphery of the trough is recently-formed TC Mike, which is expected to intensify and track south into the belly of the system, giving it a turbo-charge. This greater synoptic feature is itself expected to move only slowly southwards, and with wind speeds likely to top 50-60kts at its core, it’ll generate a large long period swell for the South Pacific.

As was discussed on Wednesday, this looks to be an eerily similar synoptic setup to TC Lusi, which generated the Saturday/Sunday/Monday swell we’re all still frothing on.

But. BUT! This system is almost twice the distance from the mainland as what TC Lusi was (around 4,600km to Byron - see chart below), and the ramifications of this will be considerable at the Australian coast.

Firstly, despite TC Mike moving more favourably slower than TC Lusi, and displaying a more robust fetch, the swell decay over such an enormous distance means that we’re looking at much smaller waves heights at the coast.

An even more important factor is the swell consistency. Swells that travel such vast distances often display breaks between sets of fifteen or twenty minutes at a time, so expect a lot of waiting around for the bigger waves. 

As for size - first up, we’re looking at a peak overnight on Sunday, or possibly even first thing Monday. But, the leading edge should have already reached the coast by Sunday morning so there should be a noticeably strong (if very inconsistent) signal  in the water for the early session.

At the peak of the swell, I think we’ll see most locations pulling in extremely inconsistent set waves in the 4-5ft range. If you’ve got a particularly reliable swell magnet or bombie that accentuates long period easterly swells particularly well, then rogue 6ft+ sets are certainly possible. But overall, most of your surfing will be done at the lower end of these size estimates.

Wind wise, we’re looking at a freshening nor’easter throughout Sunday along all coasts - strongest in the south - however we should also see light and variable winds early morning. So aim to surf before about mid-morning as this is when conditions will probably start to deteriorate. 

Next week (Mar 24 onwards)

Sunday’s late peak should hold throughout most of Monday at a similar, if slowly easing size range.  But it looks like freshening northerlies may once again cause some problems in SE Qld and Northern NSW as a southerly change moves along the Southern NSW coast. Right now the model guidance is split on whether we’ll see much strength in the winds but in any case it is a concern that yet another long period groundswell event may be marred by unfavourable conditions. Stay tuned for an update on this on Friday.

A steady easing trend will then occur from Tuesday onwards. Long term, it seems that the trades will probably fire up again south of New Caledonia, so we’re on target for more mid range trade swell through the second half of next week that’ll be well suited to the points of SE Qld and Northern NSW. More on this in Friday’s update.