Active period of strong southerly swells

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 1st October)

Best DaysThursday: easing south swell across the Northern NSW coast (best in the Lower Mid North with good winds early). Less confidence in good winds north of Yamba. Possible late increase in E'ly swell in SE Qld. Friday: if we're lucky we'll see some small infrequent E'ly swell in Qld with early offshore winds. Otherwise fun leftover south swell in Northern NSW with early light winds. 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 steadily easing in size.

Recap: Tuesday saw a small NE windswell develop across most locations as northerly winds strengthened about the coast. A small long range SE groundswell arrived in the afternoon with inconsistent 2ft+ sets at exposed beaches in Northern NSW, and smaller surf in SE Qld. Both swells persisted into this morning but with varied conditions as a southerly change approached from the south conditions were clean in the south with mainly offshore winds ahead of the change however strengthening northerly winds in the north (and SE Qld) never really swung offshore before the southerly hit. A short range south swell is now building across the region. 

This week (Oct 2-3)

We’ve got a mixed bag across the region on Thursday. Today’s gusty S’ly change will clear to the north and east, leaving the Mid North Coast in lighter S’ly winds that should veer more SW in the early morning.

However north from about Yamba, winds are more likely to be moderate to fresh S/SE, with only a slim chance of an early SW breeze (although it’s likely in selected pockets, such as the southern Gold Coast and possibly around Byron Bay).

The primary swell source in the water will be an early peaking S’ly swell in the wake of the change, which’ll be short range and mainly average in quality, and easing during the day. Exposed south facing beaches south of Byron will see the biggest waves (3-5ft sets) but it’ll be smaller at remaining beaches due to the swell direction. 

Most beaches along the Gold and Sunshine Coasts will see only very small refracted surf on Thursday morning (inconsistent 1ft to maybe 2ft if we’re lucky) and although the regional south swell magnets will pick up more size, they will be wind affected. 

We are however expecting a very inconsistent long range E’ly swell to arrive mid-late afternoon, generated by a deep low north-east of New Zealand that delivered large waves to the region today. I’m still not very confident on the projected surf size (due to the high level of swell shadowing of this low) but regardless, the Sunshine Coast will see the biggest waves - perhaps occasional 3ft sets at open beaches in the few hours before dark. Due to the origin of this swell, we’ll probably see slightly smaller surf on the Gold Coast (2-3ft) with smaller waves again south from Byron (not that it’ll be easily distinguishable underneath the existing S’ly swell).

Conditions are looking better on Friday with generally early light variable winds and sea breeze in most locations. Wave heights from the south will pull back a little from Thursday but should still maintain plenty of size across south facing beaches south of Byron (3-4ft), originating from Thursday’s swell source as well as a reinvigorated SW fetch expected to develop off the South Coast throughout Thursday. 

In SE Qld, very little south swell will make its way north of the border on Friday but we should see continuing inconsistent E’ly swell from the low near New Zealand. Again, confidence is not high from this source but I’ll hold steady with very occasional 2-3ft sets across the region. Expect very long breaks between the sets.

The Lower Mid North Coast (north to about Coffs Harbour) has a dynamic afternoon of waves on the cards, with a projected increase in size thanks to an essentially uninterrupted expanse of swell-generating winds from Wednesday thru' Friday across our southern swell window (between today’s change a more significant front entering the lower Tasman Sea). 

At this stage it’s hard to have a lot of confidence on the size and timing of the swell increase however south facing beaches could pick up 4-6ft sets by close of business Friday. We’re actually expecting the swell cycle to peak on Saturday, and there’s a reasonable chance that locations north of about Coffs may not see any major upwards trend on Friday. However, keep an eye on the surf reports, cams and buoy data in southern NSW to assess the trend.

This weekend (Oct 4-5)

We’ve got an excellent weekend of waves, as long as you like solid south swells and winds out of the northern quadrant. 

This incoming swell is being generated by a deep low and associated front currently tracking south of the continent, which is then expected to be steered into the Tasman Sea. The sheer coverage of this system is quite spectacular, as are the strength of the core winds (~50kts) and the associated swell periods are likely to be quite large (Tp around 18-19 seconds arriving overnight Friday).

A peak in surf size is likely around the middle of the day Saturday across the Mid North Coast, and during Saturday afternoon across the Far North and SE Qld region. South facing beaches south of Byron should see solid sets in the 6ft to nearly 8ft range (offshore reefs should see even bigger bombs) but as per usual, beaches not open to the south will be much smaller (3-5ft most open beaches, 2ft+ protected southern corners).

Due to the swell direction, wave heights will taper off across the Tweed Coast (3-5ft at open beaches) but unfortunately most Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast beaches and semi-exposed points will miss out considerably from this event, with inconsistent set waves likely in the 2ft range due to the swell direction (the east swell will have also eased back by this time). Exposed south swell magnets will however be bigger, probably double this size.

Sunday will then see a slow easing trend from Saturday with similar winds.

Long term (Oct 6 onwards)

Still nothing major on the charts at this stage, however we’re looking at a couple of quick fronts skirting the lower Tasman Sea on Sunday and early Monday that should produce some small southerly energy for exposed south facing beaches in Northern NSW during the first half of next week.

Otherwise, it looks like another strong frontal passage is expected through the middle of the week, leading to a renewal of strong southerly swell for the second half of the week. The eastern swell window is however not showing any major signs of activity, which is unfortunately common for this time of year. More on this in Friday’s update.


thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Thursday, 2 Oct 2014 at 5:58pm

Couple of reasonable sized sets at D'Bah this afternoon. Didn't seem to be a whole lot happening on the Goldy points though.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Thursday, 2 Oct 2014 at 7:32pm

You've over-hyped this one badly Ben.

This: "We’ve got an excellent weekend of waves, as long as you like solid south swells and winds out of the northern quadrant" does not compute.

Five-eights of bugger all surf north of the border, all the Points that would handle it blown to shreds by northerlies and the backbeaches all maxed out and closing.

Bad combination. You can count on one hand, less than one hand, the number of surf spots working between Noosa and Coffs Harbour on this combo.

alsurf's picture
alsurf's picture
alsurf Thursday, 2 Oct 2014 at 8:06pm

Can definitely count at least a full fingered hand of spots that would be good in these conditions freeride

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Thursday, 2 Oct 2014 at 8:17pm

Hmmm. Latest model data has certainly strengthened the coastal N'ly flow much more than I recall they progged earlier in the week (was expecting light W/NW tending NW early, with fresh NE sea breezes). Looks like a significant surf quality downgrade will be in order tomorrow.. that's a bummer as this swell is looking really good on the charts otherwise.

Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog Friday, 3 Oct 2014 at 8:34am

This mornings report for the sunny coast is waaaay off...... Sorry , prids'..... But it's waaaay off...... Had a browse of various cams.... ese swell, has to be 3 foot on the sets... long period..... Bit more consistent than given credit...... Even mini sets in the protected corners of Laguna bay..... And "secret left" is breaking nicely....

tobym's picture
tobym's picture
tobym Friday, 3 Oct 2014 at 2:13pm

Maybe the reporter only checks Mooloolaba If so I feel sorry for Him,bigger sets were coming thru at 4ft up here this morn and with some push behind them.even a few tubes for the patient.Nice little swell for october.