Mixed bag for the short term, better possibilities next week

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 24th September)

Best Days: Thurs: possibly a small afternoon window on the Lower Mid North Coast.

Recap: Monday’s south swell eased to 3-4ft on Tuesday in Northern NSW, and still managed 2-3ft sets this morning  (not a great deal of size in SE Qld though). Winds were good early both days but went E’ly on Tuesday afternoon and N/NE this afternoon. 

This week (Sep 25-26)

Not much incentive for the rest of the week. The current freshening NE winds will generate a local windswell for the Northern NSW coast on Thursday, however it’s hard to have much confidence in the winds swinging favourably for surf prospects. 

Probably the best chance for a a decent amount of size and a respectable swing in the winds is the Lower Mid North Coast, which may experience a moderate W’ly change around early afternoon as a SW change approaches from the south (due overnight).

Exposed NE facing beaches should see 2-3ft sets however you may have to tuck into a northern corner for the best conditions if the winds don’t play ball.

Wave heights will be a little smaller north of Coffs and up into SE Qld but winds will also remain more northerly here anyway, so there won’t be many options available.

The overnight SW tending S’ly change has been strengthened in the latest computer model output, so consequently has upgraded size expectations for Friday

But before you get excited, this upgrade in size also comes with an increase in the strength of the accompanying southerly wind. And, SE Qld won’t see much, if any swell from this source.

Wave heights will build during the day and should reach 4-5ft at south facing beaches by late afternoon (in Northern NSW) but these locations will be very bumpy and choppy. So you’ll have to hunt around for something smaller and cleaner.

In SE Qld, the S’ly change is due to cross the border around dawn (with fresh W’ly winds ahead of its arrival) and overnight N’ly winds are expected to whip up a peaky windswell for NE facing beaches in the 1-2ft range. 

This will trend downwards during the day and it’s unlikely that we’ll see a correspondingly increase in S’ly swell behind the change, due to the poor alignment of the trailing fetch. So, keep your expectations low for anything worthwhile north of the border to finish the week. 

This weekend (Sep 27-28)

The weekend looks pretty drab at this stage. Friday’s southerly change is expected to develop into a low in the central Tasman Sea, but it'll track eastward which will limit its swell potential for the East Coast.

However, a weak secondary fetch trailing behind will maintain a modest short range south swell for Saturday (3ft at south facing beaches south of Byron, smaller at remaining beaches, and north of Byron) - but local winds will remain moderate to fresh out of the south as well. There’s a chance for an early sou’wester but this is really clutching at straws.

And SE Qld will remain very small for much of Saturday, with a small south swell limiting the most size to the south swell magnets where it’ll also be rather bumpy on top.

As detailed on Monday, a small front slipping into the southern Tasman Sea on Friday will generate some small sideband southerly energy for south facing beaches in Northern NSW on Sunday, but there won’t be much than a couple of inconsistent feet at best. The Hunter may see a few bigger waves but overall it's not worth too much excitement. Conditions will improve in most NSW locations though with light winds and sea breezes. 

SE Qld may pick up a small, low quality short range SE swell on Sunday as a ridge strengthens across the lower Coral Sea but at this stage I reckon we’ll be lucky to see much more than a foot or two across the semi-exposed points, and perhaps a bumpy 2-3ft at south facing beaches. Let’s take a closer look at this on Friday.

Long term (Sep 29 onwards)

We have a couple of interesting swell sources on the radar for next week.

Freshening northerly winds across the Northern NSW coast on Monday afternoon may whip up a local NE windswell for Tuesday, probably no more than a couple of feet though. Current synoptic charts suggest that a slowly northward advancing trough along the southern NSW coast on Tuesday may stall this fetch off the southern Qld coast, bringing a similar swell for the SE Qld region on Wednesday morning. But again, this is a long way away and not to be worked around (yet).

Elsewhere, and just backtracking for a moment, Thursday’s southerly change is expected to form a low pressure system in the central Tasman Sea on Friday, before it moves towards New Zealand on Saturday.

During Sunday, a new E’ly fetch is expected to develop within western Cook Strait (the body of water separating New Zealand’s North and South Islands - see chart below) and this is expected to generate a small and inconsistent but well defined SE swell for the region, probably arriving sometime around Tuesday with occasional 2-3ft sets at open beaches (probably a little smaller in SE Qld). I’ll update this in more detail on Friday once the outlook becomes a little more clearer and confident.

We’re also looking at a reasonably strong front through the lower Tasman Sea later Tuesday, which is expected to kick up a strong south swell for Wednesday or Thursday. The models have been a little skewy on this over the last few days so I don’t feel comfortable pinning down wave heights right now, but at this stage it could generate a reasonable amount of size and energy for south facing beaches in Northern NSW. 

And finally, a tropical low is modelled to form near New Caledonia over the weekend, before drifting south-east and merging (somewhat) with the remnants of the weekend’s central Tasman low. This is expected to form a broad new sub tropical low north of New Zealand on Monday which has good potential for a decent E’ly groundswell arriving sometime around Thursday

However the tricky part of the long term equation is where the low will track - some model guidance has it slipping quickly south, in which case New Zealand’s North Island would eventually shadow swell prospects (although southern NSW would dip out before northern NSW and SE Qld). Right now it looks like being worthy of around 3ft of inconsistent long period E’ly swell but I’ll evaluate the model data more closely in Friday’s update.