Great waves in store for many regions

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 29th August)

Best Days: Sat: afternoon increase on the Gold/Sunshine Coast, with fun waves on the semi-exposed points. Sun: rapidly improving conditions with a solid but easing swell in most areas (only small in SE Qld). Mon/early Tues: excellent waves at exposed beachies.  

Recap: Wild, windy and out of control conditions in the 10ft range (give or take) in Northern NSW on Thursday. Smaller in SE Qld, ranging from 5-6ft+ on the Gold Coast to 4-5ft+ on the Sunshine Coast. Easing wave heights today - but still large in Northern NSW - with gusty S’ly winds, following a period of SW winds early.

This weekend (Aug 30-31)

I really love these dynamic weather patterns. With lots of small embedded low pressure cells within the primary Tasman low, continual pulses of energy arrive unannounced across the coast, staggering their arrival across different regions and providing a million curveballs for your humble surf forecaster. 

On the whole I’m pretty happy with Wednesday’s outlook; the Sunshine Coast showed just how important swell direction is for the protected points, with Noosa raking in very little size for much of the day (as had been tipped). And on the Gold Coast, despite the incredible barrels going down at Kirra, it was interesting to observe an almost empty lineup at Burleigh at times (no doubt a byproduct of the sizeable swell and a strong northerly sweep). And even the Snapper-to-Greenmount section looked difficult with extended periods of sizeable washthroughs making it a challenging environment through the afternoon.

Anyway, on to the forecast period ahead. There’s not much change to make to Wednesday’s notes for the weekend -  a retrograding low in the central Tasman Sea is generating a strong renewal of SE swell that’s going to generate large waves through Saturday across the Northern NSW coast, with smaller surf refracting into Southern Queensland. 

However, as the low tracks close to the mainland tonight, it’ll strengthen the pressure gradient across the coast which will ratchet up wind speeds from the S/SW to gale force strength or more. This will really make things difficult for all but the most protected spots in Northern NSW; we’re looking at a peak in the 6-8ft range at south facing beaches, with smaller surf elsewhere depending on your level of southerly exposure.

North of the border, Southern Queensland will return to a more typical spread of size between south facing beaches (which’ll be wind affected) and the points, which’ll be clean but will ultimately struggle to pick up any major increase from this new swell, due to the strong southern component in its direction. 

Wave heights will already be quite sizeable early Saturday morning in the south, but we’re looking at an afternoon peak on the Gold and Sunshine Coast, probably around 2-3ft+ across the semi-exposed points tops. South facing beaches will be considerably bigger but probably unrideable due to the strength of the S/SW wind.

On Sunday, conditions will rapidly improve as the low tracks further offshore, the pressure gradient relaxes across the coastal margin and wind speeds throttle back. We’re still looking at some solid waves - especially in the south of the region, around 4-6ft across the Mid North Coast - but it’ll be a little smaller in the Far North, and Southern Queensland will see only small waves (away from south swell magnets) due to the strong southerly component in the swell direction.

However, light W/SW winds will create generally good conditions at most spots so the beachies will be well worth a look. 

As a side note, there is a risk that some locations between Port Macquarie and Byron Bay may see an early period of fresh SW winds overnight and into the early part of Sunday morning (ahead of the easing trend) so it’ll probably be worth aiming for an afternoon session in this neck of the woods, as winds will be lighter and probably even variable after lunch. But up in SE Qld we should see good conditions all day, with either small peelers on the semi-exposed points, or fun solid leftovers at exposed south facing beaches.

Next week (Sep 1-5)

Monday looks unreal for the open beaches. Southern regions (south of about Yamba) are likely to see another pulse of E/SE swell through the morning, originating from a secondary E’ly fetch around the bottom of the broad parent system in the Tasman Sea on Saturday. It won’t be huge but occasional 3-5ft sets are possible at exposed beaches.

Elsewhere, wave heights will become smaller with increasing northerly latitude, and in SE Qld you’ll really have to hit up the open beach breaks for the best waves. Fortunately, winds will be light W’ly tending NW so most spots should be really clean.

Freshening W/NW winds are then expected on Tuesday ahead of a gusty S’ly change that’s due to track through the Mid North Coast around lunchtime, reaching the Far North Coast late afternoon. Small clean beachies will be the order of the day ahead of the change so surf early for the best waves.

Tuesday’s change will herald the start of an extended period of frontal systems through the lower Tasman Sea, that’ll have a strong accompanying south swell. The biggest waves through this period are expected Wednesday and possibly again late Friday or early Saturday (in Northern NSW) - but the models are a little divergent on how strong the fronts will be so I’m not confident to pin down size prospects yet. South facing beaches could see 4-6ft sets at the height of each pulse, however winds are likely to be fresh and gusty from the southern quadrant. 

In contrast, Southern Queensland won’t enjoy this swell direction very well with most locations away from the swell magnets expected to remain very small for much of the second half of next week. Let’s take a closer look on Monday.

Longer term (Sep 6 onwards)

Similar frontal passages are expected through next weekend and beyond so the long term trend forward from next Saturday maintains a healthy period of southerly swell for the northern NSW coast. More on this next week.


freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Saturday, 30 Aug 2014 at 6:36pm

contrary to the model predictions and forecast notes, swell heights eased rapidly through this afternoon