Pumping weekend ahead for the Northern NSW coast

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

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

Best Days: Wednesday: possibly a fun mix of small swells across the Northern NSW coast (mainly Lower Mid North) before the S'ly change. Not much elsewhere. Thursday: Easing south swell across the Northern NSW coast (best in the Lower Mid North) with good winds early. Friday: if we're lucky we'll see some small infrequent E'ly swell in Qld with early offshore winds. Keep your expectations low. Saturday: large S'ly swell at exposed beaches in Northern NSW. Much smaller in SE Qld. Best conditions in the morning. Sunday: same conditions as Saturday but quite a bit smaller, and easing.

Recap: Small south swell over the weekend at exposed south facing beaches in Northern NSW. Not much elsewhere, or anywhere today for that matter. 

This week (Sep 30 - Oct 3)

On Friday I outright dismissed a small SE swell that had been projected for Tuesday, from a fetch that was expected to develop in the eastern Tasman Sea on Sunday. Although the models had indeed downgraded the low expected to generate the new energy, it seems my write-off may have been a little premature. 

The small low that formed in the central Tasman on Friday tracked east towards New Zealand over the weekend as modelled, however a minor SE fetch did eventually develop west of Cook Strait (the body of water separating the North and South Islands) on Sunday. Although I’m still confident we won’t see anything great from this source, we should see small infrequent waves arriving through Tuesday afternoon and (more likely) Wednesday morning

Set waves should eventually come in around the 2ft+ mark at open beaches in Northern NSW, but be prepared for very long breaks between waves. I don’t think we’ll see much more than a lazy foot or two north of Byron either.

Unfortunately, freshening N’ly winds on Tuesday will render all but the most protected northern corners too bumpy. 

Wednesday morning has a little more potential, because in addition to the infrequent SE swell we’ll also see a small NE windswell across the Northern NSW Coast (biggest south of Coffs). Additionally, winds are expected to tend NW then W’ly ahead of a S’ly change from about lunchtime onwards, so there’s likely to be a window of opportunity around mid-late morning where some of the open beaches may have a few peaky options. Keep your expectations low though. 

(note: we’ll also see a late afternoon building S’ly windswell at exposed south facing beaches, but it’ll be good for kiteboarders and wind farm operators, and that’s about it).

Don’t expect much, if anything in SE Qld on Wednesday from any of these sources: the northerly fetch simply isn’t expected to extend far enough north (and east) of the coast to generate a meaningful windswell, the SE swell will probably be too small. The S’ly change is expected to arrive very late in the afternoon which is pretty useless timing for a late windswell increase too.

Wednesday’s southerly change will leave a reasonably punchy but ultimately easing short range S’ly swell on Thursday morning, and winds should be pretty good south of Coffs (light and variable with sea breezes). North of Coffs we’re likely to see a lingering S/SE flow but some locations should see an early sou’wester. Expect 3-4ft sets at south facing beaches south of Byron, with smaller waves north of Byron. In SE Qld we probably won’t see much more than a foot or two of weak short range S/SE surf at most spots, with bigger but wind affected waves at exposed south facing beaches. 

Thursday’s curveball comes in the form of a long range E’ly swell discussed last week. Unfortunately - as had been feared in Friday’s notes - the southward track of the developing low (between New Zealand and Fiji) has resulted in it likely to reach maturity early tomorrow morning, well inside the swell shadow of the North Island. This is a real shame as it looks like an impressive little beast of a low (and will no doubt give NZ’s Bay of Plenty, Coromandel Peninsula and Northland a very strong east swell over the coming days).

Anyway, there’s still enough of the developing fetch - right now - just on the periphery of the swell window to anticipate some energy making landfall across the Australian East Coast later Thursday afternoon and into Friday. However, in last Friday’s notes I mentioned that it’d probably only benefit locations north of Yamba - well, due to the greater-shadowing-than-previously-modeled, I think we can probably slide the southern boundary up to about Ballina or Byron (right now, I'm going for very inconsistent 2-3ft sets, biggest on the Sunshine Coast). 

But really, confidence is not very high for this event and with Thursday afternoon’s winds looking suitable only for semi-exposed points (SE), it’s certainly not worth an afternoon off work. Friday morning should be a better choice as winds are expected to be light offshore across SE Qld, but I’ll update Wednesday’s notes with a few key points to keep an eye out for if you’re planning a dawn patrol.

Elsewhere, Friday will mainly see easing southerly swells and some small sideband energy from the east across the Northern NSW coast open beaches, along with light winds and sea breezes. 

However, surfers across the Lower Mid North Coast (and to a much lesser degree the North Coast) should keep an eye out for the leading edge of a new southerly groundswell that’s expected to provide large waves on Saturday. Locations south of Coffs are unlikely to see much more than an hour or two of action before dusk but there’s a chance it could run a little ahead of schedule. Read on below for more about this swell…

This weekend (Oct 4-5)

We’ve got an excellent weekend of waves coming up for many beaches (caveat for Qld surfers: sorry, directional issues will generally work against you again). 

By now you’ve probably read the article about the impending swell for Fiji ("Cloudbreak forecast to come out of the sky") - well, the same swell is going to hit the East Coast a few days prior and we’re looking at an excellent, large long period south swell to occupy the entire weekend. 

This south swell will be generated by an intense polar low tracking below the continent mid-week, which is expected to be steered up and into the Tasman Sea along a favourable N/NE route - right inside NSW’s prime south swell window. There are two features of this (forecast) system that are quite incredible right now: the strength of the surface winds - upwards of 50kts - and the sheer breadth of the fetch - spanning the entire southern Tasman Sea. 

Initially there’ll be two swells in the mix - a short range south swell emanating from the top of the fetch (periods in the 10-11 second range), but the real power will originate from the core of the low and should generate peak swell periods of 18-20 seconds - not a common occurrence along the East Coast at all.

Surf size will be largest at south facing beaches, and there’ll be a big range in size between exposed beaches and protected corners. However conditions are looking good in the morning (light winds) and average in the afternoons (NE sea breezes) so aim for a morning session.

Saturday morning is likely to see the biggest surf, somewhere in the 6-8ft range at qualified south swell magnets in Northern NSW, but smaller at remaining beaches and semi-exposed points around 3-5ft, and smaller again inside sheltered southern corners. 

Unfortunately, wave heights will tape off north of Byron and most spots in SE Qld will probably see just a foot or two of long-lined but inconsistent surf. However the long swell period should be favourable for the handful of quality south swell magnets (3-4ft sets if we’re lucky).

Expect wave heights to taper off steely through Sunday but with no shortage of great waves in the morning across Northern NSW. 

Long term (Oct 6 onwards)

Nothing major on the charts at this stage, due to the Fri/Sat south swell occupying the focus of the latest model run. However I’ll have a closer look at the long term trend for next week on Wednesday.


mitchvg's picture
mitchvg's picture
mitchvg Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 at 9:39am

What do the black, double barbed wind flags on the ASCAT image mean? You know where...

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 at 9:51am

Black means 'rain contaminated' (so, use with caution as they may not be correct).

mitchvg's picture
mitchvg's picture
mitchvg Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 at 12:33pm

Ah yeah, cheers

zane's picture
zane's picture
zane Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 at 2:45pm


When will the long and anticipated day be when the long stretch of Northern NSW coast is on a separate forecast to the QLD forecast. Especially given how rapid the difference can be between say Sunshine Coast and South of Byron.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Tuesday, 30 Sep 2014 at 3:04pm

Time restrictions won't really permit that Zane - we have limited forecasting resources at our disposal. As it is I'm uploading these forecasts way later in the day that I'd prefer to, so adding in yet another forecast would keep me in the office even later. 

I hear what you're saying, but that's mainly the case in south swells. During summer trade swells and easterly groundswells, there's a much smaller difference in swell parameters between the Sunny Coast and 'south of Byron'. 

FWIW, these forecasts are usually structured SE Qld first, NNSW second. But this time of year there's simply very little to talk about for SE Qld, so most of the discussion centres around Northern NSW. If we did have two seperate pages, many NNSW surfers would end up having to navigate to the SE Qld notes (if they were looking to travel north of the border) and vice versa, which kinda defeats our objective - I've purposely tried to design our website so navigation is kept to a minimum.

Johno's picture
Johno's picture
Johno Wednesday, 1 Oct 2014 at 10:09am

Spring has not been kind to the gold coast. Getting toey for a decent surf (or any surf for that matter).