Small windows of opportunity, but not a whole lot of surf

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 9th December)

Best Days: Thursday: south swell magnets in Northern NSW, most of the day south of Coffs, and early morning north of Coffs before the wind gets up. Early Sat: chance for a peaky NE windswell and a developing S'ly breeze. Late Sat/early Sun: south swell magnets in Northern NSW should have some fun waves. 

Recap: The east swell eased only slowly since Monday, and early light winds have provided fun waves across the open beaches before the northerly kicked into gear. Tuesday morning was around 2-3ft at open beaches, and this morning was down to 2ft. A new southerly groundswell arrived across the Northern NSW coast this afternoon and as per the Coffs Harbour surfcam pics (below) is generating good 3ft sets at south facing beaches.  

This week (Thursday 10th December - Friday 11th December)  

Southeast QLD: Short, sharp and shiny: there’s nothing to get excited about for there next few days.

The easterly swell that’s provided some form of surf across the region for the last twelve days has pretty much run its course, and the advancing southerly groundswell will only favour a handful of exposed south swell magnets with stray 1-2ft sets on Thursday.

Throw in a freshening northerly breeze both days (becoming strong and gusty at times Friday) and you’ll be much better off doing other things away from the coast for the rest of the week. 

Northern NSW: Thursday looks a little trickier than Monday’s model guidance suggested. The advancing trough has been delayed a little, and it may only push as far north as Port Macquarie. As such northerly winds will probably affect most regions from Coffs Harbour north, though there is a chance for an early N/NW flow across many regions. South of Coffs, we're looking at light variable winds and afternoon sea breezes. 

Today’s southerly groundswell will ease throughout Thursday, but occasional 2-3ft sets are still likely at south swell magnets in the morning, particularly in the Far North (although surf size will taper off a little between Byron Bay and the border). You’ll need to capitalise on the early session for the best waves though, as N/NE winds are likely to become quite fresh into the afternoon.

Friday looks pretty bleak with a small mix of leftover south swell and NE windswell, maybe 1-2ft at open beaches and early N/NW winds expected to swing N/NE and become fresh to strong throughout the afternoon. These winds should whip up a peaky NE windswell for the late afternoon but no major quality is likely due to the accompanying winds. 

This weekend (Saturday 12th December - Sunday 13th December)

Friday’s strong N/NE winds may possibly generate a small, useful NE windswell for early Saturday morning. It’s still early days, but I think some exposed north facing locations - including the southern Gold Coast - may see some 2-3ft sets early morning. 

The main concern with this swell source is the timing of an approaching southerly change, as it’ll interrupt the northerly flow at some point overnight. Right now model data has this occurring just after midnight (Friday) which is a little early for my liking - I’d prefer that the strong northerlies held out until just before dawn, as wave heights will ease steadily once the swell source is turned off (we don’t want this to happen under the cover of darkness). Let’s revise the timing on this in Friday’s notes, but for now I can't rule out the chance for some fun peaky waves at selected locations for a few hours.

In any case, a trough moving up the coast is expected to push a gusty southerly change across the region. Current estimates are that it’ll have crossed the Mid North Coast well before dawn, and should be just north of Yamba at sunrise, reaching the Gold Coast early-mid morning and the Sunny Coast mid-late morning. Ahead of the change, NW winds are likely.

A narrow ridge is then expected to build across the SE Qld coast behind the change, maintaining a gusty SE airstream throughout the afternoon. However it’s likely that Saturday afternoon will see rapidly relaxing winds south of about Yamba as a high moves into the Tasman Sea, so we may see favourable conditions for the beach breaks mid-late afternoon.

As for new swell? Aside from the aforementioned NE windswell, the southerly change won’t generate much more than a low quality 2-3ft windswell for south facing beaches in Northern NSW, and smaller surf in SE Qld - building after lunch in most areas (earlier in the south).

A new southerly groundswell will fill into the mix for Sunday (3ft+ sets, but only at exposed south swell magnets in Northern NSW), originating from the parent system to Saturday’s change, and the ridge may persist off the coast to allow a small short range SE swell to develop for SE Qld on Sunday, but at this stage I’m not expecting much more than couple of feet here. 

As for Sunday’s winds, it looks like a developing high in the Tasman will swing winds to the east, tending fresh northeast in the south (i.e. from Coffs to Seal Rocks), but with a chance for lighter winds in SE Qld, particularly the Sunshine Coast. Winds should be light and variable for the early session though.

So in short: we have a small mix of average quality swells, and tricky winds. We’ll probably have rideable options at most coasts - south swell magnets in Northern NSW looks like the pick later Saturday or early Sunday - but I wouldn’t rearrange the diary just yet. Let’s take a closer look on Friday. 

Next week (Monday 14th December onwards)

Absolutely nothing of any major interest on the cards right now, so at this stage we’re on track for an extended period of small, average surf across all coasts. You did make the most of last week’s easterly swell, didn’t you?


mcsc's picture
mcsc's picture
mcsc Wednesday, 9 Dec 2015 at 6:06pm

Ben, looking waaay off, but what's the expectations as the El Nino in the Pacific winds up? Remember 1998 being pretty awesome for waves following that preceeding large El Nino event. (Not sure if there's a thread running on this, swellnet search function not working)

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Wednesday, 9 Dec 2015 at 6:46pm

Unfortunately I don't have any data to validate the anecdotal evidence... Sorry mate. Would love to hypothesise but im unwilling to make a link between El Niño and east coast surf potential, because the indices for El Niño are located in ocean basins quite some distance from the mainland (therefore, I don't necessarily see a link).

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Wednesday, 9 Dec 2015 at 6:39pm

Good end to the Swellnet Christmas staff trip with clean punchy 2-3ft wedges on the tail end of the swell.

roubydouby's picture
roubydouby's picture
roubydouby Wednesday, 9 Dec 2015 at 7:51pm

Pity the coffs cam wasn't turned a bit more south - most crazy storm came through about 6. Even overheard a few crew referencing that article you guys ran on lightning.

'Apparently it hits tht highest point, so your fucked, Beanpole'

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Wednesday, 9 Dec 2015 at 8:01pm


thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Thursday, 10 Dec 2015 at 6:14am

The south swell has eased a little bit overnight but Coffs is still looking fun this AM.

groovie's picture
groovie's picture
groovie Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 6:33am

Last east swell lit this part of the Mid/Nth Coast up! 4 days of gr8 waves peaking on the Sat/ Sun! Some very nice barrels@ selected localised secret hideaways! Stoked!!!When can we expect another groundswell from the east/noreast Ben, cause all the nth Crns here are firing!!

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather Friday, 11 Dec 2015 at 1:49pm

Need the MJO to kick me thinks. Weather systems are trying but just can't get going without some ooomph from the MJO.