Good weekend in the north

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Southeast Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 23rd May)

Best Days: Sat/early Sun: Fun, long range E'ly swell for the open beaches. Sun/Mon/Tues: pulsey, slowly building series of south swells that should offer some strong sets late Mon and Tues (at exposed south swell magnets in Northern NSW).

Recap: Slowly building E’ly swell with early light winds and sea breezes. Size has come in a shade smaller than expected today. 

This weekend (May 24-25)

We’ve got some fun waves on tap for the weekend. The current east swell is a little different from many ‘groundswell’ events, in that we’re seeing a gradual increase in size and period (today’s a little bigger than yesterday, and tomorrow should hopefully be a smidge bigger than today). 

In many respects it’s more like a tradeswell however with the source of this energy located quite some distance away, all of the low/mid range energy (that typically maintains the consistency in the surf zone) is missing, having been dispersed way back in the northern Tasman Sea.

And the reason for this slow upwards trend in size and period: it’s related to the way the weather system formed (slowly, whilst near-stationary). It’s not such a bad thing but in a perfect world it'd be nice if this particular system were located another thousand kays to the west.

As for the weekend forecast, I’m going to slightly downgrade my size estimations from Monday's and Wednesday's notes to 3-4ft in SE Qld and Northern NSW on Saturday morning, with smaller surf south of about Coffs Harbour. This is still slightly higher than our surf forecast model is predicting, however I’m a little surprised we didn’t see more size across the region today so I'm playing it a little more cautious today. 

And let me reiterate: expect very long breaks between the bigger sets.

Wave heights will then trend downwards into Saturday afternoon and Sunday. Conditions are looking generally fine with early light offshore winds and sea breezes kicking in from late morning onwards.

Exposed south facing beaches along the Northern NSW Coast will also pick up small levels of south swell during the weekend, that are looking to peak on Sunday somewhere in the 3ft range, maybe a little bigger late afternoon. However it’ll be very inconsistent, and very little size will make its way into sheltered locations due to the acute southerly direction. And don’t expect much, if any size from this source in SE Qld from this southerly swell either.

Next week (May 26-30)

Easterly swell energy will be all but gone by Monday, but the good news is that we’ve got a decent south swell on the way. The final frontal push in the current Southern Ocean series is expected to be quite strong and broad, stretching from polar latitudes right up into the lower Tasman Sea.

A smaller pulse of south swell preceding the main pulse will arrive on Monday, but exclusively at south facing beaches in Northern NSW with occasional sets of about 3ft+ (much smaller surf at remaining open beaches).

The second, larger south swell is due to reach the lower Mid North Coast late Monday, probably penetrating about as far north as about Coffs Harbour before sundown - which means locations north of here will probably have to wait until Tuesday to see the fruits of this swell.

Exposed south facing beaches will pick up the most size with sets in the 4-6ft range, and conditions are looking mixed - Monday should be good overall with light winds and sea breezes, however an approaching short wave trough (read: front) will approach western Bass Strait on Tuesday, strengthening northerly winds about the Mid North Coast, probably up as far north as about Ballina (SE Qld should be spared of any major strength in the synoptic wind, excluding the afternoon NE sea breeze). If you're not at a beach with good southerly expossure, expect much smaller surf.

So Monday afternoon is well worth your attention right acrtoss the region, but beware of the N’ly breeze on Tuesday as it’ll probably blow out the points (a shame too as this swell should produce good waves here). Most of SE Qld won’t see much more than a foot or so from this swell but exposed south swell magnets may see occasional 2-3ft waves. Aim for Tuesday morning to capitalise on the best winds. 

Looking beyond Tuesday, and a series of strong fronts are expected to migrate through the mid-latitudes next week, roughly between the northern Bight and Tasmanian latitudes. Because these systems won’t really be positioned within the East Coast’s southern swell window (which is south of Tasmania), there is somewhat limited surf prospects for the East Coast during this period - we’ll probably see a few small pulses of highly directional south swell in Norethern NSW during the longer term period, but nothing of any major significance at this stage (and nothing in SE Qld).

The first is likely late Wednesday or early Thursday with a second, possibly stronger swell due on Friday and maybe Saturday. Watch this space for tweaks.

Elsewhere, we’ve got another potential source of E/NE swell expected to set up camp NE of New Zealand early next week, roughly in the same position as the low earlier this week that’s generating the current east swell - essentially a small high ridging east from New Zealand’s North Island and a deepening trough south of Tonga.

Model guidance isn’t in favour that this system will be very strong nor very well positioned for the East Coast, however in the absence of any other major swell events it’ll be worth keeping an eye on this over the weekend in case we see an abrupt about-face from the computer models. More on this in Monday’s update.


Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog Sunday, 25 May 2014 at 5:33pm

Ben, some more interesting developments out in "el nino alley", 1/6/14...... Waaaaay too early to call this one.... Looks sketchy..... But worth keeping an eye on..... Another big "trade" high in the tasman at the same time..... A little of out the ordinary for this time of year ( usually further north) , but it does happen.......

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon Tuesday, 27 May 2014 at 5:22pm

Sheepio, you love the long E to West fetches with the tennis ball.