Solid south swell, but with northerlies

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 3rd October)

Best Days: Saturday: large S'ly swell at exposed beaches in Northern NSW, but you'll need to find somewhere that likes N'ly winds. Much smaller in SE Qld. Best conditions in the morning. Sunday: Easing S'ly swell with early window of NW winds. Monday: Small S'ly swell with early window of NW winds. 

Recap: Moderate S’ly swell on Thursday with fun waves at swell magnets (although variable/average conditions in most spots away form the Lower Mid North Coast). Easing S’ly swell today plus a bonus long range E’ly swell in SE Qld that provided infrequent 3ft sets to swell magnets. A shame for local conditions though, because apart from an early period of offshore winds in some areas, fresh northerlies have ruined conditions at most spots.

This weekend (Oct 4-5)

So, the south swell is on the way. Looking at buoy observations in southern NSW, and the Eden buoy is showing good data at the moment (and more recently Batemans Bay), so we should start to see an upwards trend across the Sydney region during the early evening, pushing north into the Mid North Coast during Saturday morning and peaking around lunchtime. Across the Far North Coast this peak will occur in the mid to late afternoon. SE Qld will also see a late peak on Saturday but much smaller surf is expected here.

At this stage there’s no evidence to warrant upgrading or downgrading Saturday's projected surf size, so I'm going to stick with the same predictions I've had all week. Unfortunately, SE Qld will majorly dip out in the size department due to the swell direction, but exposed south facing beaches across the entire Northern NSW coast south of Byron should see some very large waves upwards of 6ft, occasionally 8ft at times. Expect smaller surf early morning, especially north of about Yamba.

But unfortunately, local winds are now looking a lot less favourable than they were earlier in the week, with the computer models strengthening the coastal northerly flow over the last day or so. There’s still a chance for a brief window for an early NW wind in some areas (especially in SE Qld), but the overnight N/NE flow (tonight) is expected to remain robust from Byron to Port Macquarie and this will create bumpy conditions through the lineup, and will be difficult to remove without at least the presence of a moderate synoptic offshore (which is not expected). 

Additionally, there are a greatly reduced number of locations that (1) enjoy this wind direction and (2) can handle large southerly swells. As such I think Sunday morning will be a better option all round with the swell expected to ease in size overnight, and winds expected to throttle back and swing NW before dawn.

This should provide the best window of opportunity this weekend: expect early set waves in the 4-5ft+ range at south facing beaches south of Byron (smaller at beaches not open to the south), but smaller on the Tweed Coast (3-4ft open beaches) and an inconsistent 2-3ft at south swell magnets across SE Qld (even smaller across most open beaches here). Smaller surf will then fill out the afternoon with a returning nor’easter.

Next week (Oct 6-10)

Monday will see a further continuation of easing south swell and early light NW winds tending fresh and gusty NE in the afternoon. As such we’ll see the best waves inside sheltered northern corners again. South facing beaches south of Byron should manage early 3ft sets but it’ll become smaller into the afternoon. Expect smaller surf in SE Qld with generally unfavourable winds apart from a brief window of NW winds favouring a handful of beaches. 

Monday’s strengthening NE winds will build a short range NE swell for Tuesday - biggest across the Lower Mid North Coast with 3ft sets - but there’s not much confidence in the local wind forecast right now. A gradual swing to the NW is likely at some point (mainly in the south too) as a front pushes across the southern part of NSW however most locations will see blown out northerly conditions all day.

Although surface conditions aren’t looking too good, later Monday and Tuesday should see a small short range E’ly swell arrive across open beaches in SE Qld, originating from a brief high expected to develop in the Northern Tasman Sea throughout Sunday. It’s modelled to display a modest E’ly fetch about its northern flank for a short period (interacting with a broad low pressure trough across the Solomons), however no major size is expected from this source. Just another small system to keep an eye on anyway - I’ll have more data on this in Monday’s update if it's worth getting excited about.

Elsewhere, it looks like another strong frontal passage is expected through the lower Tasman Sea from Tuesday thru’ Thursday, which should kick up a couple of days of small to moderate sized south swell for south facing beaches later next week (across exposed south facing beaches in Northern NSW). 

Long term (Oct 11 onwards)

Another frontal passage similar to what we’ve seen in the last few weeks (and are expecting next week) is lining up for next weekend. So, a continuation of the same mixed pattern seems in store for the coming weeks. More on this in Monday’s notes.