South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 21st August)
Best Days: Thurs: solid from the south in Northern NSW, with mainly offshore winds though strong S'lies will develop from the south into the afternoon. A very large increase should impact the Mid North Coast late in the day. Expect small surf in SE Qld all day. Fri: moderate to fresh S'ly through SW winds, easing, with very large though abating S'ly swell in Northern NSW, still solid but much smaller in SE Qld (best at the outer points). Sat: solid in Northern NSW (small in SE Qld) and easing, clean with a brief window of early light winds.
Recap: Moderate S’ly swells have provided a wide range in size across the Northern NSW region for the last few days, anywhere between 3-5ft though with much smaller surf elsewhere. SE Qld saw very small surf from this south swell, with exposed northern ends picking up occasional 3ft sets. Additionally, it appears some SE Qld beaches may have seen a small, inconsistent E/SE swell in the water today, from a fetch off the North Island of New Zealand on Monday. However it hasn’t been a strong signal. Conditions have been clean through the mornings with offshore winds, while afternoon sea breezes have bumped things up after lunch.
This week (August 20 - 23)
Let’s look at the local winds first.
Thursday will kick off with moderate W’ly breezes, but a vigorous front will push up the Northern NSW coast into the afternoon, driving fresh to strong S’ly winds into the afternoon. We’ll see an arrival across the Lower Mid North Coast around midday, but the change may not kick in across the Far North Coast until late afternoon. So, some coasts - mainly in the north - could see clean conditions for much of the day.
Fresh, easing regional S’ly winds should revert back to the SW across many locations during the morning, and some regions (mainly Mid North Coast) could be light by the end of the day - though moderate to perhaps fresh southerlies will persist about SE Qld and Far Northern NSW.
As such, most locations should be clean on Thursday but protected locations will be your only option late afternoon and into Friday.
As for surf, we’ve got a stack of sizeable south swell on the way. A vigorous frontal passage across the SE corner of the state will reach maximum strength early Thursday as a broad fetch of 50-60kt SW winds exit eastern Bass Strait (see below). They’ll be working on a very active sea state generated by strong cold fronts ahead of it.
The existing fetch should kick surf size up into the 5-6ft range at south facing beaches (south of Byron) for Thursday morning, with smaller surf elsewhere. There won’t be much across SE Qld either, just a slow foot or two across the outer Gold Coast points, bigger near 3ft+ at exposed northern ends, but smaller across the Sunshine Coast.
The timing on the larger, much more powerful surf from the aforementioned fetch development (exiting eastern Bass Strait) will probably push into the Mid North Coast during the afternoon, but may not reach the Northern Rivers until overnight. It's not ideally aligend within our swell window, but there are many factors working in favour of a very significant swell event (strength, duration, storm track, active sea state etc).
We’ll be able to track its progress up the coast though.
Wave heights from this particular fetch will reach a peak overnight, and we’re looking at solid, wind affected 8ft, maybe 8-10ft sets at south facing locations south of Byron. Of course, beaches with less southerly exposure will be a lot smaller, but surfable options will really be limited to very sheltered locations where it'll be signifciantly smaller (there'll be a very large spread in size, due to the acute swell direction). Wave heights will ease steadily throughout the day.
SE Qld will probably be the biggest beneficiary of this event, though wave heights will be much smaller than in Northern NSW. Outer Gold Coast points should push into the 3-5ft range, and it’ll be too big for exposed northern ends and south facing beaches with 5-6ft+ sets. Expect smaller surf across the Sunshine Coast (protected inner points will remain very small though, due to the swell direction). Again, size will also ease into the afternoon.
If you’re planning on surfing at the height of this event, keep in mind there'll be a lot of water moving around late Thursday and Friday, so spend an extra fifteen minutes watching the surf before you paddle out - it'll be very easy to find yourself in trouble.
This weekend (August 24 - 25)
As mentioned on Monday, we’ve got a northerly spoiler in store for the weekend.
Saturday morning will see light winds as a high pressure system develops in the Northern Tasman Sea, but an approaching front to the south will tighten the pressure gradient over the weekend, freshening N/NW winds. They’ll be strongest in Northern NSW on Saturday afternoon, reaching 20kts across the Mid North Coast. (lighter winds are expected in the Far North, and SE Qld).
As for surf, Friday’s large swell will be on the ease, from 5-6ft at south facing beaches (south of Byron), and 2-3ft across the outer Gold Coast points (bigger exposed northern ends, but smaller across the Sunshine Coast).
There should be a degree of NW in the wind direction across SE Qld so the open beaches should fare well on the backside of this swell event.
Sunday’s looking small and clean in Northern NSW with light winds as a weak trough develops to the south. Lingering N/NW winds are possible in SE Qld but we’ll be back to small surf by this time, only suitable for exposed northern ends (at least they’ll be reasonably clean).
Next week (August 26 onwards)
A weak trough will linger along the NSW coast on Monday, and we’ll probably be under a light to moderate southerly tending easterly wind over the following days.
New S’ly swell from the weekend’s frontal passage further south should build to an inconsistent 2-3ft at south facing beaches south of Byron later Monday and into Tuesday, but it’ll be slow going (the models don’t really like this swell at the moment, so confidence isn’t high). Everywhere else will be very small.
Longer term guidance is suggesting a typical migratory frontal passage across the Southern Ocean next week, supplying small, intermittent south swells. However the trough (mentioned above) will linger in the Tasman region and could evolve into a swell generating system - though it’s not yet showing any size potential.
More on this in Friday’s update.