Fun small mix of S'ly and E'ly swells all week
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 13th May)
Best Days: Plenty of waves all week with a small mix of E'ly swell (in the north) and S'ly swell (in Northern NSW). Best conditions expected across the Mid North Coast. Average conditions north from Ballina under a mainly SE flow, though there'll be brief pockets of opportunity.
Recap: The weekend’s trade swell managed occasional 2ft+ waves across SE Qld and Northern NSW, though it was pretty slow and lacklustre compared to what we normally expect from these kinds of events. Late Saturday saw the arrival of a solid S’ly swell that built across Northern NSW int Sunday, peaking around the 6ft+ mark at south facing beaches, though winds swing to the SW then S/SW across most regions. Very little S’ly swell made it ashore into SE Qld, so the protected southern points remained pretty small and slow. Wave heights eased back today though not as much as expected, with some south swell magnets in Northern NSW still seeing 3-5ft surf all day. SE Qld has picked up some average short range S/SE swell from a broad ridge through the Coral Sea, attached to Tropical Cyclone Ann. Local conditions have been generally average north from Yamba with winds veering to the SE, though it’s been clean along the Mid North Coast.
Bumpy short range S/SE swell on the Sunny Coast this afternoon
This week (May 14 - 17)
First up: TC Ann has been a surprising late season tropical system, and it’s now intensified into a Cat 2 system. Although it’s still unlikely to directly influence our swell prospects, it will approach the Far North-east Qld Coast mid-week and will also inject plenty of moisture into the region, some of which will be transported to other parts of the country. Well worth keeping a close eye on.
Anyway, back to the surf.
Although our current S’ly swell will ease back through Tuesday, we’ve got got a series of small long range S’ly swells expected for the next five days. The global swell models are not particularly good at picking these kinds of swells, so they’re kinda flying under the radar.
The first pushed across Tasmania today (providing excellent large surf in Victoria on Sunday and today), and it’s now tracking along the Southern NSW Coast, with the Eden and Batemans Bay recently picking up an increase in peak swell periods to 16 seconds. This energy will reach Sydney over the coming hours, and pulse across Northern NSW through Tuesday.
But it doesn’t end there. A succession of vigorous fronts traversing the Southern Ocean below Tasmania will generate additional long period southerly swells through the rest of the week, almost one per day, with size fluctuating in the 2-3ft range at south facing beaches south of Byron, though much smaller at beaches not directly open to the south. SE Qld won’t pick up much size from this swell though.
Now, the precise timing of each swell train is pretty hard to pin down across a broad region like Northern NSW, where there can be eight or ten hours difference in arrival time between Seal Rocks and Tweed Heads (and even more once you start to factor in exposed northern ends of the Gold and Sunshine Coasts, which add another couple of hours on top). And, each swell will be quite lully owing to the poor fetch alignment within our swell window (and its distant source). So don't expect consistent surf from sunrise to sunset each day; we'll see alternating periods of good waves and downtime. So if upon first glance your favourite south swell magnets isn't doing it, don't write it off as we're likely to see a multitude of pulses push through the region all week.
The last pulse in this sequence is due on Friday, sourced from an incredibly powerful though poorly aligned front tracking up into New Zealand on Tuesday and Wednesday (see below), and this will produce the biggest waves of the week, pushing 4ft at south facing beaches south of Byron, but smaller at non-south facing beaches. Exposed northern ends in SE Qld should see occasional 2ft+ sets from this swell.
Now, although this south swell won’t really favour most beaches in SE Qld, we will see plenty of waves all week north of the border.
The broad ridge through the Coral Sea will extend eastwards across to about New Caledonia or Fijian longitudes for much of the week, poking just south enough within our swell window to favour our region with waves.
The Sunshine Coast will be the biggest beneficiary with peaky 2-3ft sets at exposed beaches, but we’ll see smaller surf as you head south from the Gold Coast (2ft+), with very little trade swell expected south from Yamba. There’s no trend expected all week, with similarly slow, peaky waves each day, best suited to the wide open beaches.
As for conditions, a slow moving high pressure system will maintain generally variable winds all week across the Mid North Coast (moderate S/SE winds likely Tues/Wed), but the Coral Sea ridge will maintain a moderate SE flow about Far Northern NSW and SE Qld, becoming a little fresh at times on the Sunshine Coast. We should however see isolated pockets of morning variable winds, though this won’t occur everywhere (Sunny Coast, I’m looking at you).
So, it's not an amazing week of waves ahead but there'll be options. And Friday's looking very good at south facing beaches south of the border.
This weekend (May 18 - 19)
The models are suggesting a slight intensification of the trades around New Caledonia Friday/Saturday, which may marginally boost the short range E’ly swell on Sunday. Either way there should be small peaky waves on offer both days, from the Sunshine Coast down to about Ballina or Yamba.
Otherwise, Northern NSW will see gradually easing S’ly swells all weekend, from Friday’s high point. Expected 3ft+ sets at south facing beaches early Saturday (smaller elsewhere), becoming smaller thereafter, with light winds and sea breezes both days. Moderate SE winds are likely in SE Qld on Saturday but should ease on Sunday.
Next week (May 20 onwards)
There's nothing major standing out in the long range charts at this stage, just a small to moderate south swell for Northern NSW early/mid week as the weekend’s cut off low pushes into the Tasman Sea. I’ll have more details on this in Wednesday’s update.