Not a great forecast period; though there are small windows to work around

South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 17th September)

Best Days: Tues: brief window of light winds and easing S'ly swell in Northern NSW. Not much in SE Qld. Sun: clean conditions in the morning, with building long period S'ly swell across Northern NSW. Only small in SE Qld. 

Recap: Saturday didn’t deliver much surf, with small swells and freshening northerly winds. This generated a NE windswell for Sunday morning that was quickly overtaken by a building S’ly windswell in the lee of a gusty change that pushed across the region early on. The south swell trailing the change was late to build but reached 4-5ft across Northern NSW where it held into this morning, and we’ve seen small clean peelers across the outer SE Qld points around 2ft all day today. Even protected SE Qld points (like Noosa) saw tiny peelers from a distant E’ly swell throughout the entire period (see below, from this morning).

Fun small S'ly swell at Burleigh this morning

Tiny lines at Noosa this morning, one bloke out!

This week (Sep 18 - 21)

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Freshening northerly winds will create problems on Tuesday afternoon, though there’ll be a decent period of light winds on offer early morning. Although the current south swell is easing steadily across Southern NSW, we should see some leftover 3ft sets at south swell magnets (south of Byron) around dawn, before it loses a little more size throughout the day. 

There’s a risk that more southern locations (i.e. Mid North Coast) may see this easing trend kick in earlier (i.e. it may be smaller), and we’ll definitely be undersized across SE Qld from this source, with only exposed northern ends of the Gold and Sunshine Coast likely to pick up anything remotely rideable.

Wednesday is essentially a write-off with strengthening northerly winds all day unlikely to yield anything positive across any coastline. The small undercurrent of distant E’ly swell will persist but that’s about it. 

These strengthening northerlies will be in response to an approaching southerly change that’s expected to cross Northern NSW early Thursday morning and then push up into SE Qld. But, it’s an unusual change, with very little in the way of a trailing southerly fetch. 

As such, Thursday has little surf potential: the models have plenty of size across Northern NSW but it’s all local windswell, and with accompanying 30kts of cross-onshore breeze it’ll be terrible on the surface. And there won’t be enough size or strength for protected southern corners. We may see small NE windswell early but I wouldn’t get too excited.

This pattern won’t favour SE Qld for any waves, unless the models seriously ramp things up over the next day or two. 

A strengthening ridge behind the change will lengthen and broaden the southerly fetch off the Northern NSW coast and this increases our surf potential for Friday, but only just: winds will remain fresh and gusty from the S/SE, so exposed beaches will be heavily wind affected. However, with acute southerly swells displaying low periods, there really won’t be much size on offer at protected spots either. The best we can hope for are slow inconsistent, wobbly 2ft sets at outer SE Qld points. Elsewhere, those beaches picking up any south swell (i.e. Northern NSW) will be very bumpy and not worth the effort. 

This weekend (Sep 22 - 23)

Saturday looks pretty average. Friday’s ridge will weaken, reducing our local swell potential though winds will become light and variable so conditions will be clean.

A slight reinforcing of the tail end of the ridge (near New Zealand’s North Island) may slightly boost energy into Sunday though I’m not getting my hopes up for anything worthwhile. 

Overnight on Saturday, the leading edge of a long range, long period southerly swell will push up into the region, generated by an intense polar low sliding well south of SA, Victoria and Tasmania on Thursday (see below). Although poorly aligned for our coast, its southern latitude and broad fetch width will allow swell energy to spread back up along the East Coast of Australia, and large swell periods (17-18 seconds) will boost wave heights from what’s otherwise expected to be a small ocean swell event. 

At this stage it looks like the swell will peak either overnight through Sunday afternoon across Northern NSW (this swell won’t favour SE Qld), but we’ll also be at a risk of an approaching southerly change in the south - current model guidance has it into the Mid North Coast around lunchtime, and the Far North Coast late afternoon. 

Therefore, Sunday morning is the pick of the forecast period as we’ll see inconsistent though building S’ly swell and early light winds. Locations further north (though only up to about Byron Bay) have the most potential, we may see occasional 3-4ft sets at reliable south swell magnets; the swell potential will be the same further south, it’s just that the wind of opportunity will be shorter as the change approaches. 

Wave heights will be much smaller elsewhere with a minor undercurrent of E’ly swell.  

Let’s fine tune the specifics on Wednesday.

Next week (Sep 24 onwards)

Long range models are suggesting a return to an active frontal pattern south of Tasmania which suggests a couple of south swells for next week. More on this in Wednesday’s update. 


redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Monday, 17 Sep 2018 at 7:42pm

I will be writing to senior management, a formal letter of complaint. This lousy lack surf is a disgrace and needs to be rectified.


adsi's picture
adsi's picture
adsi commented Tuesday, 18 Sep 2018 at 8:27pm

Good waves on a back beaches around byron today, winds held off until 11 and a few barrels to be had on the low tide. Too many brazzos doing the paddle round and drop in though. Few harsh words held them off but they didn't look pleased.

redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 8:01am

It was OK at shun sine beach too a few blue bottles and jellyfish. Stayed out too long and got a bit cooked. I said some expletives too. I'm the only one out there and a bloke comes out invades my bank and drops in on me! This happens a lot and I usually paddle off to another bank.


Booka78's picture
Booka78's picture
Booka78 commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 12:29pm

Wow model upgrade for 27/28th looks impressive on mid nth coast, 4-6ft 17s south sounds good to me

redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Wednesday, 19 Sep 2018 at 4:43pm

No Real upgrade for us in the north sector not even a meal deal.