Is October the New March?

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)
Swellnet Analysis

It's mid-October and we're now...hang on, let me count, day nine of an east swell that just won't die. Last week there were six offshore mornings in a row. One of the days just passed had, according to a concrete-cutter pal, “Indo boat trip-style surf".

Take a random straw poll of anyone on the East Coast - especially in the populated sub-tropical zones - and ask what the best months for surf are and it will likely start with 'M'.

March or May.

The worst month for surf is an even easier question to answer.

October.

The usual expectation once 'spring has sprung' is for the nor-easters to peel your eyelids back and blow tumbleweeds down the main street of surf towns. If you can stomach the wind, it's a great time for kiteboarding, and for everyone else it means turning away from the ocean to whatever floats your non-surf boat: mountain biking, flathead fishing, anything apart from grovelling in that cold, shapeless, onshore slop.

My traditional method of dealing with October is to enjoy September sessions in Fiji or Indonesia, then come back with a belly full of surf and hibernate until summer tradewind surf kicks in during December.

Not this year, not last year - both La Niña years - and not even 2019 during a prolonged dry spell when the East Coast was on fire. The best surf of that year was a three-day swell in October, while March was relentlessly onshore, as it was this year too.

More and more we seem to be seeing, not seasons arriving early or late, but complete seasonal reversals.

Last week's charts were revealing. An extended, deep easterly tradewind fetch anchored a pair of tropical depressions that drifted down from Fiji. Those are the fruits we expect to harvest in March. Over the weekend, sea surface temperatures on the local Byron Buoy were close to 22°. That's not quite late summer stuff, but it's a far cry from the usual 17-19 we get in a 'normal' October as Ekman Transport kicks in, caused by north-east winds which push warm surface waters away from the coast and allow colder upwellings to occur.

Not this October.

What's going on?

It's mostly a black box phemonena, for now. Possibly an artifact of basin-scale patterns like ENSO or the PDO [Pacific Decadal Oscillation]. Possibly a longer term shift related to a climate change-induced strengthening of the East Australian Current, or an expansion of the Hadley Cell which is influencing the seasonal pattern of tradewinds.

Then again, it may just be a complete coincidence. Something we look back on in five years time and wonder what the hell that was all about.

For now, we've got some north-east winds coming but the South Pacific Convergence Zone is bubbling away; a tropical depression looks to be forming around Fiji towards the end of the week. The dim and dreary outlook of a normal October continues to look more like the one we expect in March.

// STEVE SHEARER

(Photos taken by Craig Brokensha during last week's east swell)

Comments

conrico's picture
conrico's picture
conrico Tuesday, 18 Oct 2022 at 9:40am

Great right up. What I'd give to live on the East Coast rn...

vbaaccess's picture
vbaaccess's picture
vbaaccess Tuesday, 18 Oct 2022 at 9:53am

Wetter spring equates to more surf throughout Spring. Alternativity dry Spring equates to northerlies, colder water and no surf.

DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet Tuesday, 18 Oct 2022 at 10:49am

I reckon this situation will be a fond memory in a year or two. Anyway….me likey.

Yendor's picture
Yendor's picture
Yendor Wednesday, 19 Oct 2022 at 6:41am

Are you getting some DSD? How's the health? I hope it's going well.

DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet Wednesday, 19 Oct 2022 at 6:49am

Just getting back in the water of late. Things seem to have settled as far as my body goes. Still some bizarre nerve activity going down but life goes on. Unresolved diagnosis. A couple of very fun sessions though. Cheers for asking and hope you’re getting a few nice sets yourself.

Yendor's picture
Yendor's picture
Yendor Wednesday, 19 Oct 2022 at 7:11pm

Great to hear things are on the mend and you've been able to get back in the water. As for myself I've been having a good run lately thanks. Been a good Spring for us in NZ. Lots of regional classics lighting up.

burleigh's picture
burleigh's picture
burleigh Tuesday, 18 Oct 2022 at 11:12am

The never ending northerly slop and cold water of a normal spring is still in my mind every time I’ve surfed this month.

I’m not taking these waves for granted and I’m filling my bucket each time I paddle out.

What a great feeling

KARIO's picture
KARIO's picture
KARIO Tuesday, 18 Oct 2022 at 3:18pm

soon the South Coast equivalent: " Is light onshore the new offshore ? "

Justonemore's picture
Justonemore's picture
Justonemore Tuesday, 18 Oct 2022 at 4:21pm

It's rewards for all the shithouse same months of years gone by. Sshh let's not bugger it up.

see.saw's picture
see.saw's picture
see.saw Tuesday, 18 Oct 2022 at 5:46pm

Went to Townsville to see my daughter and missed the whole weekend including Friday arvo. So, enough already!

doolybird's picture
doolybird's picture
doolybird Tuesday, 18 Oct 2022 at 6:00pm

My mates froth at East swells......me... Ive always had the worst surfs in them..it's a bit of a running joke now between us. Ive tried to get over the barrier by surfing more in them but to no avail...hehehe..Im already psyched out before I paddle into the lineup. Ill keep my head down and pray to surf god for a few more South swells.....whilst enjoying watching everyone else get a few.....

3vickers's picture
3vickers's picture
3vickers Tuesday, 18 Oct 2022 at 9:05pm

things sure seem to be changing
….shuddering at the memory of last year’s never ending SE’s in vic

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 19 Oct 2022 at 6:09am

The science is pretty early stages but Prof Ian Goodwin has postulated a counter-clockwise movement in wave climate from a more S-SE dominated one to a more E'ly angled wave climate.

Also, East Tas seems to be benefitting from major NE swells, although these may be a related but not linked phenomena.

It's fascinating to me.

I hear you Doolybird, these E swells can be tough nuts to crack.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Wednesday, 19 Oct 2022 at 8:02am

Mates on the wave starved Tassie NW coast have also had the best last few years, some of those big NE-E swells push in between Vic and Flinders Island and light up rare reefs, also had very consistent low period East swells for beachies last few years.

indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming's picture
indo-dreaming Wednesday, 19 Oct 2022 at 7:58am

In Victoria October is the new December but with cold water still and rain worse than winter.

Isn't really that bad for us on the east side though, must suck for west coast crew though.

Dx3's picture
Dx3's picture
Dx3 Thursday, 20 Oct 2022 at 11:09am

Think I've had more good surfs across Sept/Oct on the surf coast than I did all winter... and despite heaps of crew still strangely in boots and hoods, water has been beautiful. Ordinary run coming up now though.

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy Wednesday, 19 Oct 2022 at 8:20am

When are they renaming the surf coast?

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer Wednesday, 19 Oct 2022 at 8:33am

Well since the china virus took hold of us in general the surf has been the most consistent
for so long I can really remember and no doubt La Nina has been the main feature for this.
Although there has still been swell in crap October its been in general onshore rubbish for
about 80% of the time and the water is freezing.

haggis's picture
haggis's picture
haggis Saturday, 22 Oct 2022 at 7:26pm

China virus. What’s with the racism? Swellnet, surely you have a code of conduct for for this kind of racist shit in your forums.

Loafmode's picture
Loafmode's picture
Loafmode Sunday, 23 Oct 2022 at 8:00am

lol no jokes allowed in 2022. more like there should be a code of conduct against out of control sensitivity/wokeness!

haggis's picture
haggis's picture
haggis Friday, 28 Oct 2022 at 8:58pm

Yeah that’s right. It s just jokes.

haggis's picture
haggis's picture
haggis Friday, 28 Oct 2022 at 9:01pm

You can never trust the intellect of anyone who uses “lol”

wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443's picture
wingnut2443 Wednesday, 19 Oct 2022 at 9:16am

How far back do your logs go back Steve, Ben and Stu?

Growing up, Mid North Coast, my birthday in early October, usually coinciding with a new board, and memory banks full of epic surfs in October.

Definite trends toward the Spring feast here on Northern Rivers over last few years.

I sense a 'back to the future' pattern.

GM's picture
GM's picture
GM Monday, 31 Oct 2022 at 9:56am

You can get historic daily synoptic charts from BOM starting from 01/12/1999...I think,... the last time I checked this date was Jan 2019.

smokeydogg's picture
smokeydogg's picture
smokeydogg Thursday, 20 Oct 2022 at 10:06am

Pretty sure La Nina has been procuded almost double ++ the usual amount of swells for the east coast of NZ, plus more offshores for the West Coast win win.
Hoping it pumps in January for my trip home yeeew !

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 20 Oct 2022 at 4:56pm

I'd say for southern NSW, October is still a decent surf month, before the northerlies fully entrench and you seem to get the odd low popping up down in the Tasman.

November for me would likely be the worst, that and maybe December.

Having a La Niña signal peaking during winter/spring this year compared to the usual late spring/summer has definitely thrown a spanner in the works regarding the current setups.

It's been non-stop and there's more to come next week!

I'm also making the most of it as I know when we shift away from this Niña pattern the run of fun, windless surf will come to an end.

Regarding a permanent shift in the patterns, I'd say unlikely for now, but I posted this the other day in the latest La Niña article..

Looks like the global climate models haven't been picking up a developing quasi-Niña signal through the Pacific Ocean with the changing climate. One to keep an eye on over the coming years to decades.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Thursday, 20 Oct 2022 at 5:41pm

Thats interesting Craig, cheers.

dawnperiscope's picture
dawnperiscope's picture
dawnperiscope Thursday, 20 Oct 2022 at 6:01pm

A bit of colour has drained out of the SST anomalies in the eastern pac over the past week. No purple left and generally lighter blue.

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer Thursday, 20 Oct 2022 at 6:51pm

Has anybody noticed how early and perfect the epee centre of the surfing world
universe the north shore of Hawaii has been the last few weeks its on. So early.
Pity accommodation has become beyond ridiculously expensive.

scott.kempton's picture
scott.kempton's picture
scott.kempton Saturday, 22 Oct 2022 at 8:59am

Been a good few years but all good things come to an end and we not far from it I reckon

Le Col's picture
Le Col's picture
Le Col Saturday, 22 Oct 2022 at 12:00pm

Since you mocked the Gods with this blasphemy it has been howling north-east all week.

555ZZZ's picture
555ZZZ's picture
555ZZZ Saturday, 22 Oct 2022 at 8:57pm

Mid North coast getting nothing but messy , lumpy swells and onshore winds ,,
Nothing great about this October here.

555ZZZ's picture
555ZZZ's picture
555ZZZ Sunday, 23 Oct 2022 at 12:32pm

P.S. I almost forgot , and the water is cold and murky just to top it all off.

GM's picture
GM's picture
GM Monday, 31 Oct 2022 at 9:54am

You can get historic daily synoptic charts from BOM starting from 01/12/1999...I think,... the last time I checked this date was Jan 2019.