Surf size from TC Oma hasn't even peaked yet
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 22nd February)
Best Days: Exceptionally large renewal in S/SE tending SE swell on Sat/Sun. Hard to know if there'll be many surfable options. Easing SE tending E'ly swell through next week though remaining large in SE Qld and Far Northern NSW for much of the week.
Recap: It’s been quite the forty-eight hour period, hasn’t it? Let’s quickly recap: E/NE swell from TC Oma built steadily through Thursday, the dawn patrol on Thursday morning was temporarily undersized but within an hour to two it had built steadily, with most coasts reaching somewhere north of 6ft to perhaps 8ft at times. Isolated reports of 10ft surf came from Northern NSW and also some parts of SE Qld, though it seems to be mainly in the 6-8ft range. Winds strengthened from the south so the protected spots had the only workable waves. Today we’ve seen the E/NE swell level out, with some interesting periods of much smaller waves.. i.e. Noosa this morning, though it’s picked right back up again this afternoon. Of more interest was the building secondary (now primary) S/SE swell that was pushing 10ft+ across exposed coasts in Northern NSW, though smaller across SE Qld and also south from Ballina. That being said, we’re seeing some very big waves across the outer points in excess of 8ft. S’ly winds have reached gale to storm force across SE Qld and Far Northern NSW today, with Moreton Island the standout, reaching 61kts this morning.
Outer bombies standing up at Noosa this afternoon (smaller than yesterday, though swell direction has swung from the E/NE to the SE)
Large raw lines of SE swell at Burleigh this arvo
Lining up the section at Currumbin
I wonder why there's no-one out at Byron?
This weekend (Feb 22 - 23)
I’ll see if I can keep things a little more succinct today.
TC Oma has weakened to Category 1 status, but will strengthen back to Category 2 into Saturday morning. This has been largely expected for the last few days, but there’s a small different since Wednesday’s notes were issued: it’ll briefly track to the east (not the west), before recurving to the north, where it’ll slowly drift towards over the following days.
This slight eastward track - overnight tonight - pushes the storm force S/SE fetch on TC Oma’s western flank, a couple of hundred kilometres further to the east, away form the mainland. And because it’s not aimed ideally within our swell window, it has resulted in a drop in potential surf size.
And this is very welcome, because if we’d seen these winds adjacent to the coast, the theoretical upper limits of potential surf size would be off the chain. From a raw numerical level, the Gold Coast’s open ocean swell size forecast has decreased from 9.1m at 12 seconds (Wednesday’s model forecast) to 6.7m at 11 seconds (this afternoon’s latest data).
In any case, the broad trend over the weekend is expected to kick strongly (!) from the S/SE. The southern extend of the core fetch will reach about Coffs Harbour latitudes, so the largest waves will probably be found north from about here or Yamba (give or take) through to the border. Across SE Qld, we’ll see similar effects across the Gold and Sunshine Coast but as the coastal orientation curves away to the north-northwest, we’ll see marginally smaller waves heights here (except at exposed northern ends, which should see a near-comparable level of size), with smaller surf across protected regions.
But, this is all academic, because we’re already seeing very large surf across all regions. So there’s no reason that south swell magnets won’t be pushing 15ft+ or so at the height of the swell later Saturday and early Sunday.
Protected locations will be smaller, but how much?
The usually approximations based on period, direction and shadowing don’t really apply for a swell event like this. And for the most part, we’ve already seen such a large amount of coastal modification, so that a lot of ‘protected’ locations now have offshore storm bars (see surfcam image of The Pass, above), which essentially creates an unsurfable mix of very large closeouts outside, and impossible-to-surf smaller inside reforms (that have dangerous currents ready to whisk you up the coast at a whim).
By and large there’s only a handful of very well known locations than can handle a swell of this magnitude; even the relatively smaller wave heights we'll see at sheltered locations. And with gale to occasionally storm force S/SE winds expected both days, you’ll have your work cut out finding anything rideable. All the rules will be broken this weekend, there’s no way to know in advance which breaks will be working and which will be displaying unusual characteristics.
As a side note, had TC Oma been more zonally aligned (east-west), a fetch of this strength, positioned this close to the mainland, and working on the already active sea state would have generated significantly higher waves than what I’m estimating. We don’t see these kinds of weather systems so close to our surf coasts very often.
As a side note, expect less of everything (wind, swell, surf) across the Mid North Coast, including a new, unrelated S’ly swell from a front pushing through the Tasman Sea. Though it’s still likely to be very large, only suitable for very well protected locations.
Next week (Feb 24 onwards)
TC Oma will remain on the synoptics for some time, drifting north into Monday and reorientating more of a zonal pattern (i.e. east-west, thus displaying a E’ly fetch) as it weakens, thanks to a new high pressure system building in the Tasman Sea. It will remain a direct influence on SE Qld surf prospects for most of next week, assisted through the second part of the week by a broadening ridge further into the South Pacific.
And, the weekend’s Tasman front will kick up some new S/SE swell for Monday and Tuesday - in its own right, somewhere around 4-6ft at south friendly beaches south of Byron.
By back to TC Oma. We’re looking at an extended period of SE winds; they’ll be gale force Monday but weaken to fresh-to-strong strength (SE Qld, lighter south of Byron) and wave heights will remain strong all week across the Gold and Sunshine Coasts all week. In fact, Monday will still be significantly oversized (10ft+ exposed coasts, smaller points), easing to 6-8ft Tuesday and then holding 4-6ft through until the start of the following week. Yeah, that’s quite an incredible outlook. Though local winds will confine the best waves to the points. Expect smaller surf from this E’ly swell regime, to locations south from Byron.
The big question for next week will be: how did the banks fare? Will the points be destroyed from the size of this swell, or will the overriding southerly swell direction actually groom them quite nicely? Only time will tell.
There is one other swlel source for the long term: a new tropical system is expected to form near Samoa over the weekend and slide south of Fijian longitudes into the start of next week. This has good potential at delivering a brand new E'ly swell sometime around the following weekend.
Have a great weekend, see you Monday.
(and sorry, that wasn't very succinct at all).