Workable short term period; next week looks very good

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

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

Best Days: Tues: fun small E'ly swell with NW winds. Thurs AM: small south swell across Northern NSW, but probably spoiled by local winds everywhere but the Far North (this swell won't get into SE Qld). Sat/Sun onwards: building trade swell, biggest in SE Qld. Sun: small long range south swell for swell magnets.

Recap: We had plenty of reports of excellent waves across the Tweed Coast on Saturday afternoon as fresh SW winds groomed a strong combo of long range E’ly swell and building, punchy short range SE swell off a ridge that stalled across the North Coast Friday night. In fact there was a wide variation in winds across small sections of many coasts in conjunction with a rather dynamic weather system (that also delivered a smidge under 300mm of rain at Tweed Heads in 24 hours!). For example, the southern Sunny Coast saw average conditions early morning whilst the northern Sunny Coast experienced light offshores accompanying the east swell - these wind changes were related to the passage of small thunderstorms, which influenced local winds. South of about Ballina, conditions were less than ideal at exposed beaches with fresh S’ly tending SE winds, however we did see a period of SW winds in the morning at Coffs.

Sunday saw mixed conditions: on the Mid North Coast winds were offshore early but the Far North Coast saw moderate to fresh E’ly winds, which swung offshore in the afternoon. The distant east swell continued to motor along but the SE swell off the ridge eased slowly throughout the day. Still plenty of fun waves around though if you could work around the winds. Today, the swell has levelled back to the residual east energy with light variable winds that are now freshening from the north. 

This week (Dec 30 - Jan 2)

*forecast notes will be brief this week*

The long range trade swell will continue to pulse intermittently across most beaches for much of the week. However, the source of this long-lived event (stationary trades north and north-east of New Zealand) will start to weaken over the coming days so by the end of the week and into the weekend it'll ease further in size and consistency.

Overall you'll have to work around the winds for the next few days, Tuesday will see nor'westers at most spots tending northerly during the day, so the open beaches should be fun early, with northern corners the best option throughout the day. Wednesday looks tricky as a ridge pushes across the coast, with a wide range of wind possibilities across the region (early morning could be OK, but I'm not confident for anything amazing given the likely lack of decent swell).

As a side note, a tropical depression is expected to slowly develop near Tahitian longitudes this week. Although it looks good on the MSLP and Surface Wind charts (below), it’s simply too far away form the mainland to be a useful swell source for us.

So, looking elsewhere for swell potential this week: a series of fronts crossing the southern Tasman Sea will deliver some south swell for exposed south facing beaches in Northern NSW. Only one of these pulses looks to be of any benefit for the North Coast (arriving late Wednesday in the south, peaking early Thursday with occasional 3ft+ sets at south facing beaches) and unfortunately a new ridge is expected to develop across the coast at the same time, creating fresh onshore winds. 

The only saving grace here is that they’ll be much lighter in the Far North - however this south swell is unlikely to benefit many locations north of the border so your best options from this source will be between Tweed Heads (preferably south of Byron) and about Yamba early Thursday (keep your expectations low, especially on the Mid North Coast). 

Otherwise, we’ve got a strengthening trade flow through the southern Coral Sea later this week but current indications are that we won’t see any translation of new swell to the coast until the weekend (watch this space though).

This weekend (Jan 3-4)

The strengthening trade flow about the southern Coral Sea will contribute some very useful short range east swell for the SE Qld region this weekend, somewhere in the 2-3ft+ range across the Gold Coast, up to 3-4ft+ on the Sunny Coast (due to its closer position to the fetch).

Surf size will become smaller with increasing southerly latitude, however we should see waves at most coastlines. Conditions should be OK with light winds early and moderate onshores into the afternoon.

Otherwise, the only other notable source of new swell is a deep, slow moving polar low modelled to develop well below Tasmania around Thursday that’s expected to kick up a decent southerly groundswell for the weekend. Currently expectations are for an arrival very late Saturday afternoon in the south (peaking early Sunday across most beaches) and set waves should come in around the 3ft mark at south facing beaches. More on this in Wednesday’s update.

Next week (Jan 5 onwards)

Three areas to keep an eye on for next week: (1) strengthening trades across the southern Coral Sea, that should reach a ‘fully developed’ state by early/mid next week, resulting in a bevy of fun east swell for the entire week, and possibly next weekend, (2) strong frontal activity in the Southern Ocean below Tasmania over the weekend, leading to a steady supply of small southerly swells for exposed south facing beaches in Northern NSW, and (3) some more dynamic developments off the Southern NSW Coast early next week, as a trough over the SE corner of the country pushes into the Tasman Sea, possibly forming a Tasman Low - and consequently a strong short range SE swell for the southern NSW Coast (how this scenario would favour Northern NSW and SE Qld is yet to be ascertained). More on all of this during the week.