Extended run of easterly swell; next week could be sizeable

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 5th January)

Best Days: Tues: small pulse of trade swell with early light winds. Wed/Thurs: stronger round of trade swell with good winds for semi-protected points in SE Qld and Far Northern NSW. Late Sun/Mon onwards: likely to be plenty of trade swell with a chance for a sizeable pulse of E'ly groundswell.

Recap: Onshore winds remained generally light to moderate in strength for much of the weekend (north of Yamba) so surface conditions were fun and generally workable. However NE winds were quite fresh and gusty along the Mid North Coast Saturday afternoon and Sunday. The expected pulse in E’ly trade swell fell short of size expectations (in SE Qld/Northern NSW) which was a little disappointing, but most open beaches still delivered fun waves. 

This week (Jan 6 - 9)

Local winds are expected to maintain a familiar trend all week.

A large high in the Tasman currently is currently directing a firm ridge against the Queensland coast. As it tracks slowly eastwards, a new ridge will develop along the Southern NSW coast. However, between the two ridges the pressure gradient will be (for a while) slacker, resulting in lighter winds. This looks to be somewhere in the Yamba-to-Tweed region; north of here we’ll see freshening SE winds, to the south we’ll see freshening NE winds. In the middle, winds will be lighter and more out of the east.

In fact winds should remain lighter in the south through most of Tuesday and Wednesday, it’s Thursday onwards (and maybe not until the middle of the day) where we’re likely to see a lot more strength in the local airstream.  

As for swell, the broad persistent trade flow across our entire east swell window will continue to generate fun surf for the coast. We’re looking at a small pulse on Tuesday with a bigger round of energy on Wednesday, but based on the weekend’s performance I’ve pegged back wave heights a little. The Sunshine Coast should see the most size with occasional sets at open beaches in the 3-5ft range through Wednesday, but these locations will be bumpy and you’ll be best off at the protected points (where it’ll be smaller, and cleaner).

Wave heights should reach 3ft to almost 4ft on the Gold Coast (a little smaller running down the semi-exposed points) and as you then head south of the border wave heights will fall away to 2-3ft across the Mid North Coast. 

This swell cycle should hold through early Thursday before slowly easing into the end of the week and the weekend.

This weekend (Jan 10-11)

The surf forecast is looking pretty good for some coasts this weekend, but winds may spoil it elsewhere. 

We’re likely to see a similar level of trade swell as per Thursday/Friday both days, somewhere in the 3-4ft range across the Sunshine Coast, around 2-3ft+ on the Gold Coast and then slightly smaller surf south to the Mid North Coast.

Local winds look like they’ll become a problem in southern regions though as a developing trough over the SE corner of the country squeezes the coastal pressure gradient, strengthening NE winds about most regions north to around Yamba. 

North of here winds will be lighter and more easterly in direction on Saturday (possibly light/variable early), then Sunday has a couple of curveballs on the way with freshening nor’easters a possibility depending on how the models evolve. Let’s check back Wednesday to see how it’s all panning out.

Next week (Jan 12 onwards)

The stationary trade belt across our eastern swell window is a beauty, and it’s going to be a source of quality surf for quite some time.

In addition to a standard level of useable trade swell, we have two modelled features that could significantly enhance the wind field across the Northern Tasman Sea and therefore potentially deliver much bigger waves to parts of the East Coast.

The first region of interest is the waters south of Fiji. This looks to be an area of enhanced activity as a Tropical Depression slowly develops during the middle of this week, and slowly retrogrades to the coast as we head towards the weekend. 

There are several reasons for the importance of this scenario: firstly, with the trade belt having been established for such a long time (by mid-week, that is), the waters will probably become “fully developed” (which means that they will have reached the maximum wave size that can be generated by the existing fetch).

However, there are some non-modelled aspects of “fully developed” sea states that also need to be taken into account. Firstly, because these synoptic events occur over greater time scales than usual (ie slow upramp/downramp periods), we often see good surf persisting through a greater portion of the Long Tail.

Secondly, if a more significant feature develops on top of, or moves into the waters of a “fully developed” sea state, then it is already beginning swell production with a healthy head start. So this means it requires less time and energy to generate a much greater swell event.

And thirdly, a ‘retrograde’ (or westward) storm track within this ocean basin increases the chances for a ‘captured fetch’ scenario, which further enhances wave heights above what would be typically expected from a fetch displaying such characteristics. Captured Fetches occur when the storm’s forward speed is approximately equal to the speed of the swell its generating (which itself is a function of the fetch’s wind speeds). 

And… that’s what is being proposed by some of the models right now, in the perfect swell window for much of the East Coast - initially north of New Zealand, and then north-west (as the depression tracks westward).

If this all happens as is currently expected, we could be looking at a solid 6-8ft E'ly groundswell across exposed parts of Northern NSW and SE Qld sometime later this weekend or early next week (Jan 11/12 ish). Sure, it's a very optimistic outlook but the atmospheric lead up over the last week has been ideal and we are well overdue for a quality groundswell of this kind.

And lastly - some of the global models are going all out with Tropical Cyclone developments in the Coral Sea this week (one starting near the Northern Solomons mid-week, then tracking south, with a second cyclone forming near Cape York and tracking SE through the Coral Sea).

Whilst this model data needs to be taken with a liberal grain of salt, it’s completely plausible given the active monsoon burst across the top end in association with the passing MJO phase.

So, it can’t be ruled out - in fact I’d be very surprised if we didn’t see a Tropical Cyclone (or two) develop somewhere in the Coral Sea over the next week and a half. But whether they turn into beneficial swell generating systems remains to be seen. Stay tuned to Wednesday’s notes for more.


freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Tuesday, 6 Jan 2015 at 7:58am

fully developed sea state, captured fetch, optimum swell window: that's beautiful music.

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather Tuesday, 6 Jan 2015 at 8:03am

Onshore winds ain't beautiful music but!!!

mugofsunshine's picture
mugofsunshine's picture
mugofsunshine Tuesday, 6 Jan 2015 at 9:10am

Tracking Lows across the Atlantic was a piece of piss compared to the black arts needed to predict what's going on down here. I mean to start with they spin the wrong way! So a big thank you from me Ben for the informative forecasts that go someway to helping me understand the conundrum that is the East Coast. Also thanks to the regular commentors who whilst often confusing me, do make me look harder. Appreciated.

Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog Tuesday, 6 Jan 2015 at 11:26am

Donny!!!!!!! DOOONNNYYYY!!!!!!!!!!
A td -solomons - predicted to deepen and move south...
At the very same time, a td in the gulf, expected to move east, cross the coast, and deepen..... Sweet mary mother of jesus ;)

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather Tuesday, 6 Jan 2015 at 2:37pm

EC still not playing ball with GFS yet SD, so until then, I ain't counting any chickens!!!

And when can I have clean conditions again please.....no point having swell (cyclone swell or tradewind swell) if we've also got onshore winds at every location from DI to Steve's local.

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather Tuesday, 6 Jan 2015 at 9:09pm
southey's picture
southey's picture
southey Tuesday, 6 Jan 2015 at 11:58am

Gee Sheepy , you've been hanging with Uppy too long . Starting Gloat now ....
Only issue I see is an Upper Low in the Bight that wants to steal all of Nth Qld's Moisture .
Either way you should win at some stage actually scoring a NE swell down your way ... Then you won't have to worry about 'outskilling' Donny , and actually surf . And to rub it in you can send him Photo's of " Offshore surf " which will really burst his bubble .

Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog Tuesday, 6 Jan 2015 at 12:06pm

Ouch... A stinging southey bitchslap.... ;)...
Hardly ever get over to east coast tassie due to commitments..... solid 2 hours just to get to Sorell...
Southport and beyond........ Bruny if I'm lucky......
But one can salivate... No harm in that.....

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon Tuesday, 6 Jan 2015 at 2:44pm

True NE swells in the last couple of months, which is great.
Some great surf spots that I know of, come alive, especially south coast.
"Ouch... A stinging southey bitchslap.... ;)..." haha
I did like the scared big tough chained up tattooed numptie video and his fears with the little puppy dawg ;) classic

Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog Tuesday, 6 Jan 2015 at 4:07pm

Please... Please.... Welly.... Southey.... What happens in the forums STAYS in the forums........ ;)

shoredump's picture
shoredump's picture
shoredump Tuesday, 6 Jan 2015 at 7:44pm

If we get a cyclone in Australian waters, she will be named Kate.

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon Wednesday, 7 Jan 2015 at 5:47pm

Todays surf forecast 3/10 this morning and 5/10 this arvo..?

Quote "Decided, as a result of this and continuing levels of cluelessness by both Swellnet and CW to do my own. Or restart it.

There will be a ranking out of ten DonW.

The ranking is based around the seasonal average. IE in summer a 2-3ft tradewind swell is a five. In autumn a clean 3ft day is a five. In winter a 2-3ft S swell is a five.
Does that make sense to you Don?

0-1 Dead flat or unrideable storm surf.

2-3 poor below average surf with poor shape.

4. Just below average surf.

5. Seasonally average surf.

6. Above average surf with good shape.

7-8 Good to great surf with excellent shape.

9-10. Good as it gets Black Diamond surf for experienced surfers.

Whaddya reckon Don?

It's on the FreeRide Voice.
Primary motivation to provide a basis for comparison with SN and CW from a real live human actually checking the surf and conditions."

Pretty close I reckon Freeride ;)

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Wednesday, 7 Jan 2015 at 6:09pm

Been meaning to write an article discussing our ratings system for a while, but keep forgetting. Will try to get on to it shortly. 

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather Thursday, 8 Jan 2015 at 7:31am

Not sure why you're asking me. I couldn't give a feck what the score on the reports is. So long as I score when I go surfing then that's all I give a feck about.

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon Thursday, 8 Jan 2015 at 9:54am

I wasn't DW
Freeride was on Realsurf F.
I don't give a fuck either, I think its hilarious.

blow-in-9999's picture
blow-in-9999's picture
blow-in-9999 Wednesday, 7 Jan 2015 at 6:21pm

I don't think today was particularly good to be honest.

Maybe 5/10 with better wave selection but good luck more inverted logos out there than the store.

Edit: sunny coast.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Thursday, 8 Jan 2015 at 2:58pm

Today was a classic example. Clean E trade wind swell with offshore winds got an 8/10 in Yamba and a 4/10 in Ballina.
That should ring alarm bells for anyone selling a forecast/reporting site service with any reputation for accuracy.
Tip: the forecasting is usually spot on.