Extended period of strong trade swell ahead

South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 5th December)

Best Days: Entire period: building trade swells, with good waves across the semi-exposed/outer points. May be a little undersized early Thursday. Strong, sizeable surf across SE Qld Mon/Tues as the swell reaches a peak.

Recap: Rapidly easing S’ly swell on Tuesday preceded a southerly wind change that pushed across the coast during the day. A late increase in S’ly swell has reached a peak this morning with 3ft+ surf across south facing beaches south of Byron, though quality is very ordinary under a moderate to fresh SE airstream, and it's much smaller elsewhere. Surf size is also very small across SE Qld. Unfortunately, we haven’t seen any N’ly swell from TC Owen. Some of the buoys registered minor pulses in peak swell period yesterday but it didn’t translate to any size at the coast. Model data is still forecasting something to arrive - our Gold Coast data point estimating 1m of N’ly swell at 10 seconds this morning (which would ordinarily translate to 2-3ft+ surf, if it were an east swell from a reliable swell source) but it’s hard to have any confidence in there being a late arrival given the lack of visible energy thus far. 

This week (Dec 6 - 7)

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A trough off the Central Qld coast and a broadening ridge through the northern Tasman Sea will strengthen easterly winds in our east swell window from this afternoon onwards, building trade swells across the coast throughout the entire forecast period.

Local winds will remain moderate to fresh from the E/SE, with only pockets of lighter S’ly winds early morning. As such, the semi-exposed and outer points will be your best choice for surf over the coming days.

Thursday morning will see the smallest surf of the period, ahead of a building trend throughout the day and into Friday, by which time we should be looking at 3-5ft surf across open Sunshine Coast beaches, 3-4ft along the Gold and Tweed Coasts, and then slightly smaller surf as you head south from Byron.

The other main point of difference for Northern NSW is that winds will be lighter south from Coffs, and more E/NE tending NE in direction. In addition to smaller surf (than in the north) we’ll also see a slight delay in the onset of the increase. But the trend will be upwards from late Thursday into Friday here too.

This weekend (Dec 8 - 9)

We’re looking at a blocking synoptic pattern across the Tasman region this weekend, maintaining fresh to strong trade winds that’ll keep E’ly swells at elevated heights in SE Qld both days. We should see 4-5ft surf throughout SE Qld and into the Tweed Coast, with slightly smaller surf as you head south from Byron. 

Wave heights will be smaller running down the points, but they’ll offer the best conditions under moderate to fresh E/SE winds. 

There’s still a chance for isolated pockets of early light winds, but this is more likely across the Mid North Coast than anywhere else. Afternoon winds will remain more E/NE here too, tending NE on Sunday. 

Next week (Dec 10 onwards)

We’ve got a very active period of surf ahead, beyond the weekend’s strong trade swell. 

An interesting sub tropical low is expected to form NE of New Zealand on Sunday, though model guidance suggests it’ll be aimed outside our swell window. I’ll keep an eye on this.

Elsewhere, and another Tropical Cyclone is expected to form between the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu over the coming days, and intensify as it tracks south. At this stage, it'll mainly strengthen the ridge to the south (leading to a peak in size around Monday), however its S/SW track does support the prospects of also being a direct source of stronger, longer period E/NE thru' NE swell during the first half of next week. This could result in a size upgrade over the coming days. 

In any case, we’re likely to see a mix E'ly thru' E/NE swells in the 4-6ft range throughout exposed parts of SE Qld, building slowly Monday (smaller running down the points), and then easing slowly from Tuesday, though still delivering good waves into Wednesday, with smaller surf south from Byron throughout this time frame.

The weekend’s winds should abate as the pressure gradient eases across the coastal margin, so we’re looking at some really nice, solid waves throughout the first half of next week.

More on this in Friday’s update. 


crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Wednesday, 5 Dec 2018 at 11:59am

Pretty nice forecast for early Dec.
After missing Autumn and an average winter, it's pretty nice to skip Spring.

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Wednesday, 5 Dec 2018 at 12:33pm

Thank you thank you for the joyful abundance. Next on the list is cord shorts and Jack Johnson album.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 5 Dec 2018 at 2:12pm

Last December this time we had the best E swell of the last 12 months.

This Sep-Oct we had more trade wind swell than summer./autumn.

I honestly think the seasonal patterns we usually expect have gone completely schizo.

(edit: not that a tradewind swell in Dec is out of season......but you get the point)

we will see if this summer reverts back to the spring northerly pattern like the last couple have.

RicardoMV93's picture
RicardoMV93's picture
RicardoMV93 commented Wednesday, 5 Dec 2018 at 5:10pm

2nd of December last year was EPIC on the beachies! I have that date saved engraved in my head

Flurry Fairies's picture
Flurry Fairies's picture
Flurry Fairies commented Wednesday, 5 Dec 2018 at 4:23pm

Cheers Ben. Great notes as always. Fingers crossed for some early light winds.

RicardoMV93's picture
RicardoMV93's picture
RicardoMV93 commented Wednesday, 5 Dec 2018 at 5:11pm

small surf for weeks, then the waves come and I have to go to Melbourne for work -_-

I hope ya'll get barreled this swell!

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Wednesday, 5 Dec 2018 at 8:06pm

I think a constant onshore flow will be hard to escape from during this swell.

surfiebum's picture
surfiebum's picture
surfiebum commented Thursday, 6 Dec 2018 at 7:50am


redmondo's picture
redmondo's picture
redmondo commented Thursday, 6 Dec 2018 at 8:24am

The swell train analysis makes excellent reading and would look good on my synoptic T shirt.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 6 Dec 2018 at 4:08pm

Swell's on the increase and there's now little waves at Noosa.