Fun south swell for Sunday; long term prospects improving too

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 11th December)

Best Days: Saturday morning: chance for a brief window of small peaky NE windswell at dawn (at NE swell magnets), with advancing S'ly winds. Sunday: fun south swell for Northern NSW with mainly light winds and sea breezes south of Ballina. Smaller in SE Qld with a risk of lingering SE winds north of Ballina (though early morning should be OK in many areas). Monday thru' Thurs: small SE swells with light winds and sea breezes in SE Qld and Far Northern NSW. Thursday onwards: couple of options for new swell - lots of potential 

Recap: No great waves over the last few days. It’s been very small and northerly affected in SE Qld, and the south swell that pushed across Northern NSW on Wednesday afternoon eased into Thursday (though has persisted into today). Winds were however good for south facing beaches. 

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

We’ve got a robust northerly flow across the coast, and it’s expected to whip up some small NE windswell for this afternoon and into the evening. 

However, an advancing southerly change will arrest the northerly flow overnight, and this will result in a downwards trend in associated NE windswell shortly thereafter, continuing through Saturday

As such I’m not totally confident on size prospects for Saturday morning, but there should be a few waves about exposed NE swell magnets, maybe 2ft+ at dawn if we’re super lucky but likely to ease steadily to 1-2ft within an hour or two, with size tailing off slowly thereafter.

There won’t be a uniform distribution of size across the region either, and it's a very fluky/unreliable swell source, so expect patchy results at best.

Accompanying this NE windswell will be an advancing southerly change that’s due into the Mid North Coast overnight, reaching Yamba and maybe Ballina around dawn and the NSW/QLD border shortly thereafter. This change is then expected to reach the Sunshine Coast around mid morning (9-10am) with moderate NW winds preceding its arrival.

A modest fetch trailing the change will generate some short range southerly swell for exposed beaches throughout the day (by mid-morning across the Mid North Coast, lunchtime across the Far North Coast and mid-afternoon across SE Qld) however no great size is expected. South facing beaches in Northern NSW should see 2ft+ surf from this source and it’ll be smaller at south swell magnets north of the border, and smaller again everywhere else.

So, the best surf prospects on Saturday are probably around dawn, at those locations that enjoy southerly winds but still pick up NE windswells. 

On Sunday, the NE windswell and short range S’ly swell will have all but disappeared, only to be replaced by a better southerly groundswell generated by the parent low to Saturday’s change. This system looks quite off-axis for East Coast surf potential - especially SE Qld - but Northern NSW’s south facing beaches should pick up some fun 3ft, almost 3-4ft sets at times (note: the lower Mid North Coast may see the initial stages of this swell arriving late Saturday). Surf size will be smaller at beaches not fully exposed to the south, but there should still be some fun small waves on offer. 

The other aspect in Sunday’s favour is a new high pressure system that’s expected to move out into the Tasman Sea. This is expected to rapidly weaken the pressure gradient, resulting in light variable winds and moderate afternoon sea breezes across Northern NSW. 

SE Qld won’t do quite as well on Sunday - we’re likely to see a lingering SE gradient wind across the coast (though light SW for a period early morning) and most locations won’t pick up the south swell very well at all with surf size likely to hold steady around 1-2ft across the Gold Coast.

South swell magnets north of the border should pick up bigger 2-3ft waves from this source but they’ll likely be wind affected, apart from a brief window of lighter winds early morning. With some luck the Gold Coast’s outer points will sit mid-way between these size estimates and allow a few small waves to appease the weekend crowds. But the Sunshine Coast will mainly be relying on short range SE windswell, possibly a little bigger than the Gold Coast but nothing amazing given the local conditions. 

Next week (Monday 14th December onwards)

Sunday’s new Tasman high and a weak developing easterly dip extending south from New Caledonian longitudes is expected to maintain some form of moderate SE fetch through the Northern Tasman Sea for several days.

Although winds aren’t expected to be overly strong, and the fetch isn’t perfectly aligned within our swell window, it should provide small SE swells across the Far Northern NSW and SE Qld coasts from sometime Monday through Wednesday and maybe even Thursday, with intermittent sets around 2ft, and very tidally dependent conditions. 

Otherewise, Monday will see easing S'ly swell from Sunday (across Northern NSW) and a small short range signal from the SE.

Wind wise, the first few days of the new week are expected to see freshening N/NE winds across Northern NSW (again!) however model guidance is suggesting the bulk of the strength will be contained south of the border. So, SE Qld is looking at clean early morning conditions under a light and variable airstream.

This northerly flow should also whip up some short range NE swell for exposed beaches in Northern NSW for a few days, though local conditions probably won’t allow for anything great on the surface. 

An approaching trough from the far south on Wednesday has some interesting potential for the second half of next week, with some model solutions suggesting a closed low may form off Central/Southern NSW (note: this has been bouncing around in the last few model runs, so we can expect further movements over the coming days - definitely don't get your hopes up right now). 

But even if this system doesn’t eventuate, the broader synoptic pattern remains favourable for easterly swell production in the long term thanks to a slow moving high west of New Zealand and a persistent tropical depression (and/or easterly dip) south of New Caledonia. Therefore, it’s looking like we may be heading back into an active swell pattern for the long term period, which is great news in the lead up to work and school holidays. 

Have a great weekend, see you Monday. 


ACB__'s picture
ACB__'s picture
ACB__ Saturday, 12 Dec 2015 at 7:39pm

Looks like I've nailed the timing of my coolie trip in between 2 good swells. Bugger.