Patchy week of waves ahead; next week looks very good
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 25th March)
Best Days: Hard to be confident in any great days this week due to tricky winds and flukey swell sources. Thurs prob your best chance in Northern NSW with a S'ly groundswell and winds going variable. Next Mon onwards: quality E'ly swell with mainly good winds for the points.
Recap: Easterly swells maintained fun waves all weekend, slightly bigger than 2ft though generally just shy of 3ft at most open beaches (though I did observe a half-hour period of head high sets in the Northern Rivers Sunday morning). Winds were mainly offshore Saturday morning ahead of developing northerlies into the afternoon, and Sunday delivered a slight curveball in the form of a small, unexpected coastal trough that briefly swung local winds to the S/SW early morning (arriving Coffs 4am, Yamba 5:30am, Byron 7:30am, Cooly 9am). This seemed to disrupt the early stages of the developing northern flow across SE Qld and Far Northern NSW, resulting in an extended period of variable winds for the Gold Coast and Northern NSW coast down to about Yamba (northerlies freshened across the Sunny Coast and south from Coffs as expected). Today has seen freshening northerly winds and small, easing E’ly swells.
This week (Mar 26 - 29)
*this week's Forecaster Notes will be occasionally brief and erratic, as Craig is on annual leave - to receive notification when they’re updated, please update your account preferences*
Our eastern swell window is a little quite at the moment, but not totally inactive. We’ve got a broad regions of trades south and south-east from Fiji (attached to a developing tropical low, that’ll provide good surf for next week) but ultimately wind speeds are not strong enough to overcome the large travel distance between the swell source and the mainland.
We’ll see small regions of E’ly winds nose west of New Caledonia throughout the week, but with no strength nor consolidation, I can’t see much size or energy developing from this region for a few days. probably the best chance is a small trough developing off the coast later Tuesday and Wednesday, that’ll kick up some short range energy through Wednesday and Thursday, but I’ll be surprised if we saw much more than 2ft+ at exposed beaches, with not enough energy for the points. Otherwise, expect small, slow, inconsistent, lacklustre E'ly swells that'll be tidally-affected and only favourable for swell magnets during those brief periods when winds are light and variable. How d'ya like your chances?
Elsewhere, we have a stronger swell source for Northern NSW this week though. And, it’s a doozy, though poorly aligned with our swell window.
A large, powerful Southern Ocean low is tracking south of Tasmania, and significant wave heights at the Cape Sorell buoy (Tasmania’s West Coast) jumped from 2m to 6.5m in six hours this morning, with maximum wave heights pushing above 12m (~40ft) - though a lot of that energy is local windswell (and, it's all inside the Tassie swell shadow anyway).
Nevertheless, it’s quite an incredible system and even though it’ll be aimed outside of our swell window tomorrow morning as it clears east of Tasmanian longitudes, we’ll see a healthy percentage of southerly groundswell spread up the East Coast.
Late Tuesday (Mid North Coast) and early Wednesday will see an initially small increase in south swell, originating from westerly gales exiting eastern Bass Strait this afternoon. Unfortunately, the models have edged the wind direction straight west, even a touch W/NW) instead of Friday’s suggestion of a more W/SW flow, and this has a significant bearing on surf potential. By and large, most beaches will completely dip out, but south swell magnets should see occasional 1-2ft sets as the energy glances the coast.
A trough will push up the coast on Tuesday, with S’ly winds in its wake (reaching Coffs mid-late morning), though it won’t get much further north than about Yamba or Ballina. As such, N/NW winds ahead of it across SE Qld will become variable into the afternoon as the trough settles. Local windswells will develop in its wake.
On Wednesday afternoon (Mid North Coast) and Thursday (remaining Northern NSW coasts), the bulk S’ly groundswell energy will fill into the region, in association with a couple of individual pulses. So, this won’t be an upwards-peak/plateau-downwards swell event; instead we’re likely to see the energy ebb and flow over the following forty-eight period. In fact the biggest surf may not eventuate until later Thursday, easing into Friday.
We’re likely to see wave heights pulsing between 3ft and 5ft at the height of the event at south swell magnets south of Byron, but your mileage will vary both days because each swell will have slightly different periods that’ll translate to a range of wave heights at each beach. But as always, expect much smaller surf at beaches with less southerly exposure.
This swell won’t do much across SE Qld coasts either, so you’ll be relying on short range E/SE swell here, with mainly fresh SE winds Wednesday, easing into Thursday and tending variable in some regions, before N’ly winds redevelop on Friday.
This weekend (Mar 30 - 31)
Saturday looks to be a write-off with strengthening N’ly winds ahead of a gusty S’ly change pushing up the coast throughout the day.
We’ll see a small mix of local windswell and distant though gradual building E’ly swells from the trades developing north of New Zealand this week, but no major size is likely.
Sunday’s gusty southerly change won’t have much quality surf trailing behind; the source fetch will actually be more S/SW (parallel to the NSW coast - see chart below) so south facing beaches south of Byron may see 3-5ft windswell throughout the day but it’ll be much smaller at locations offering protection form the wind. And we won’t see much size north of the border either - mainly energy from other sources.
Let’s take a closer pass on Wednesday. But don't get excited about your weekend's waves.
Next week (April 1 onwards)
A strong polar low and front associated with the weekend’s change will maintain southerly swell across Northern NSW through the start of next week, at this stage holding inconsistent 3-4ft sets at south facing beaches south of Byron through Monday and Tuesday.
A tropical depression is beginning to form near Fiji and will probably evolve into a tropical low as it tracks slowly south-east. Pushing up against a large high east of New Zealand, we’ll see a long fetch of E’ly winds form within our E/NE swell window later this week, though the swell we see from this won’t start to properly show until sometime on Monday, building towards a slow plateau in size through Thursday, Wednesday and then easing from Thursday.
At this stage, I’m expecting very inconsistent sets anywhere from 3-5ft at exposed beaches, and early indications are that winds will hold out of the south so conditions should be great across the regional points.
Looking further ahead, and there are indications that a broad ridge will rebuild through the northern Tasman Sea, generating strong E’ly swells into the following weekend and beyond.
All in all, a very good period of waves ahead beginning next week.
See you Wednesday!