Weekend of south swell, with east swell next week

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Southeast Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 30th June)

Best Days: Thursday (and only because it's been flat): fresh NW winds and a very small, directional and inconsistent south swell building at south swell magnets in Northern NSW, easing Friday (nothing in SE Qld). Sunday: solid but windy S'ly swell in Northern NSW. Should be some small waves on the points. Very small in SE Qld though. Mon: small SE swell in SE Qld (not much in Northern NSW). Tues/Wed/Thurs: fun small E'ly swell at most open beaches. 

Recap: Tiny to flat.

This week (July 29 - Aug 1)

Look at the current conditions this way: at least when it’s flat, it can’t get any smaller.

And it’s also unique from a forecasting perspective because you’re starting off with a clean slate: there’s no residual swell in the water which makes it easier to assess incoming swells on their individual merits.

So, getting straight into the forecast - there’s no major change to the notes issued on Monday. That is: we've got some flukey long period south swell on tap for a handful of exposed south facing beaches in Northern NSW coast on Thursday, ahead of a building weekend of short range south swell as a front pushes into the Tasman Sea. Next week will see more south swell but more importantly, some east and south-east swell that’ll favour SE Qld (finally!), But for now let’s take a closer look at the short term period.

The front/low generating Thursday’s impending long period south swell was an impressive beast with 60kt+ winds recorded just south of Tasmania last night. However satellite data shows that the bulk of these winds were mainly W/NW, and I’m now a little concerned that Monday’s forecast may have been a tad too optimistic (of which it wasn’t an especially encouraging outlook anyway). 

However I still can’t discount the sheer size, strength and duration of the westerly belt below the continent, and despite its unfavourable alignment and I still think we’ll see some small, infrequent long period energy make its way up the coast during the day - probably not arriving in the Far North until well after lunchtime. The swell models are certainly picking up this long period energy which adds a little more weight to the overall confidence level, but we are really clutching at straws by hoping for surf of any quality.

Only a handful of south swell magnets in Northern NSW will pick up stray 2ft sets at times, and with very long breaks between ‘em. Otherwise, expect tiny conditions to prevail: very little, if any of this swell will make it ‘round the bend at Cape Byron and into SE Qld. Winds are expected to freshen from the N/NW which will only favour northern corners anyway.

Friday looks to be a smaller, less consistent version of Thursday (if that’s possible!) with freshening NW winds ahead of a late SW change. Again, we’re not expecting anything of value in SE Qld - there’s a chance for some tiny N’ly windswell but it’ll be bumpy at those beaches picking up anything even remotely rideable.

This weekend (Aug 2-3)

The Long Wave Trough responsible for this vigorous storm track is expected to move more to the east by the weekend, by which time its western flank should be positioned within our south swell window. This will push a cold front into the southern Tasman Sea early Saturday morning, generating a new short range south swell that’s due to build late Saturday afternoon ahead of a peak in size on Sunday.

However it’ll only really show up in Northern NSW, as the fetch looks like it’ll have a touch of S/SW in its alignment and it’ll also be positioned mainly off the southern NSW coast - which further reduces the chance of anything happening north of the border. 

And unfortunately for Northern NSW surfers, gusty S'ly winds will render most open locations quite bumpy as the swell reaches a peak. Early Saturday morning will see W/SW winds but surf size will be very small around this time. In fact I’m not very confident that we’ll see anything of any great value on Saturday, as the swell may not arrive until very late in the day.

There’s a chance that Sunday morning may see early SW winds at some locations, but it’ll veer fresh S’ly soon so the only surfable options will be at the semi-exposed points (which should be OK on the surface, but smaller in size). Wave heights should reach a bumpy 4-5ft at exposed south facing beaches with perhaps some 2-3ft runners on the semi-exposed points during the day. I'm expecting it to be slow and inconsistent too, and probably very crowded with an influx of wave-starved Queensland surfers. So keep your expectations low.

In SE Qld, expect even smaller surf away from the south swell magnets, perhaps 1ft or maybe 2ft tops on Sunday if we’re lucky. I’ll take a closer look at this on Friday but right now the weekend’s not shaping up particularly well for Queensland surfers. 

Longer term (Aug 4 onwards)

Righto. As discussed on Monday, a broad high pressure system developing NE of New Zealand later this week and into the weekend is expected to generate a small to moderate east swell for the first half of next week.

This swell is excepted to build slowy through Tuesday and hold into Wednesday around 2-3ft at open beaches between Fraser Island and the North Coast (with wave heights likely to become smaller south of about Coffs Harbour). It'll be very slow and inconsistent but there should be something rideable at the open beaches. 

Prior to its arrival, a ridge through the Coral Sea will generate a small peaky south-east swell for SE Qld beaches on Monday. No great size is expected from this source, and the Sunshine Coast will probably see bigger waves than the Gold Coast as it’ll be positioned a little further upstream (relative to the fetch, which isn’t expected to extend much further south than about 26S).

As such I’m expecting around 2ft across the Gold Coast points on Monday, with 2-3ft sets at some of the semi-exposed Sunny Coast points (i.e. not Noosa!). Winds will generally be out of the SE so quality should be OK, if a little average. 

The South Pacific weather charts are also showing a deepening trough well south - in fact south-east - of Tahiti early next week, but to be honest I don’t think it’s big enough or strong enough to overcome the enormous travel distance. I’ll keep an eye on this over the coming days but right now it’s not worth getting excited about.

Elsewhere, another strong Southern Ocean frontal passage - much broader in latitudinal coverage than the current system - is expected to track south of Tasmania early next week, and is expected to generate strong southerly swell for the East Coast (excluding SE Qld), probably building from late Tuesday onwards (peaking Wednesday) and favouring south facing beaches in Northern NSW. More on this in Friday’s update.


Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 at 4:34pm

Swell has come in nicely across Coffs, buoy is up as well, 1.1m @ 12.1s from the S/SE. 2ft+ sets on the cam.