Easterly swells are on the way, but winds are dicey for some coasts

South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 18th September)

Best Days: Thurs: early light winds, easing SE swells, best suited to Northern NSW (very small across most of SE Qld). Sat/Sun/Mon: building trade swells, best winds in SE Qld (N'lies will spoil many parts of Northern NSW). Tues: easing trade swells with S'ly winds. 

Recap: It’s been a pretty complex couple of days in the surf department (with some ripping thunderstorms last night!). Tuesday saw a small weak N’ly windswell either side of 2ft across some parts of the SE Qld and Far Northern NSW coasts, and a S’ly change pushed across Northern NSW, reaching the Tweed but meandering the boundary back and forth through the day. Surprisingly, the N’ly swell perked back up overnight (unexpectedly too, even the overnight ASCAT returns didn’t suggest much) with occasional 2-3ft sets at some swell magnets this morning, though despite clean conditions under a light breeze, the waves were pretty weak and average. To the south, and a complex trough/low off the Mid North Coast drove 8ft storm surf into the Hunter region this morning, but wave heights have - as expected - tapered off pretty quickly as you head north. We are now seeing bumpy 3-5ft sets across the Coffs region (it was smaller earlier); it’s bigger across the Lower Mid North Coast but Ballina doesn’t seem to be much more than about 3ft, mixed in with the easing NE swell. There were small 1-2ft lines from the SE showing across the outer Gold Coast points this afternoon, but the Sunshine Coast has been pretty small overall from all swell sources. 

Early Wednesday morning N/NE swell at D'Bah

... And Burleigh

... And the Superbank

Surfers Paradise showing the peaky N/NE swell nicely

But lunchtime showed a small line of new SE swell at Surfers, and almost no N/NE swell

The new SE swell was also showing at Snapper late afternoon, though broken up by residual northerly wobble

Plenty of size at Coffs this arvo too

This week (Sep 19 - 20)

Local conditions should be OK for the next few days, with variable tending onshore winds, though without any major strength until Friday afternoon, and even then mainly across the Mid North Coast.

Our current SE swell is sourced from a trough/low combo off the Mid North Coast that’s actually weakening. So this afternoon’s building trend will ease through Thursday, though there should be plenty of leftover size across the Mid North Coast (3-5ft sets early) with smaller surf across the Far North Coast (3ft+). Unfortunately there won’t be much energy in SE Qld from this swell. Expect wave heights to ease throughout the day everywhere.

Fortunately, there are new waves on the way for all coasts. 

A large high pressure system in the eastern Tasman Sea high is displaying a broad E’y fetch atop its northern flank, and this will build E’ly trade swells from Friday onwards towards a peak early next week. Friday won’t see much size, with sets just up to 2ft+ at exposed beaches (and maybe a little undersized early) but the trend will be heading in the right direction for the weekend. 

Also, as mentioned over the last few forecasts, the next few days will also experience a series of overlapping long period S’ly swells in Southern NSW, generated by a succession of incredibly powerful lows below the continent earlier this week. 

Confidence is still not high on how much size will eventuate (because of their remote, flukey sources), but with peak swell periods likely to be in the 20+ second range - most likely across Northern NSW on Friday - we could see very inconsistent set waves in the 3-4ft range at reliable south swell magnets south of Byron. 

This is however a very low confidence event, and even if it makes landfall, I’m not expecting this swell to get into many places, so focus on the local energy.

This weekend (Sep 21 - 22)

Local N’ly winds will create some problems for Northern NSW surfers this weekend. 

An approaching trough of low pressure will squeeze against the Tasman ridge, and the Mid North Coast could see 20kts or more at times on Saturday and Sunday. We’ll see a little less wind north of Yamba and a lot less wind north of the border - in fact, Saturday should be light and variable with sea breezes in SE Qld, and Sunday morning could be workable too - but you’ll need to factor in these winds to maximise your surf potential. 

As mentioned above, we’ll see building trade swells all weekend. We’re looking at a peak late Sunday or early Monday in the 3-4ft range throughout SE Qld and Far northern NSW, with a little less size as you head south from Yamba. 

Wave heights will also be undersized on Saturday morning but there should be some 2-3ft sets on offer at exposed beaches in the north.

Next week (Sep 23 onwards)

There’s nothing major on the cards for next week.

Monday’s peak in trade swell will be accompanied by continuing northerly winds. A trough crossing the region overnight will swing the wind to the south for Tuesday but we’ll be on the backside of this trade swell by then, probably still some 2-3ft sets but (smaller in the south) but on the way down. 

A small low forming in the western Tasman Sea on Monday looks poorly structured for surf potential, and the latest model guidance whisks it quickly away to the east, so I’m not expecting any great surf from it - beside some average short range energy across Northern NSW into Tuesday, accompanied by freshening southerly winds. 

A series of fronts trailing behind, pushing through the lower Tasman Sea Tues/Wed may merge with the low, and they may produce some small sideband S’ly thru S/SE swell mid-week for Northern NSW, but again, it’s not worth getting excited about at this early stage.

More coastal toughness is expected later next week with local NE through E’ly swell potential for the following weekend. 

That’s about it on the long term charts for now. 

See you Friday!


thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Thursday, 19 Sep 2019 at 7:56am

A few small runners at Snapper Rocks this morning.

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thermalben commented Thursday, 19 Sep 2019 at 11:29am

Super fun waves on the Tweed this morning, before the wind came up. Peaky 2-3ft sets, plenty of push for a small-ish SE swell, nice and glassy with a light SW breeze, and some fun waves as the tide came in.

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andosbf commented Thursday, 19 Sep 2019 at 12:08pm

Hi @themalben, do you reckon this "plenty of push" comes from the East swell that is filling in, or does it come from what is left from the South Swell?

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thermalben commented Thursday, 19 Sep 2019 at 12:34pm

It was actually a reference to the day before, which was a similar size, but slow, weak and difficult to surf. 

No new E'ly swell yet (see Goldy cams as an example), this is tail end SE swell at the moment - small up here but yesterday was 8ft across the Hunter. 

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thermalben commented Friday, 20 Sep 2019 at 10:35am

Weird surf over the last few days. Surfed the same spot yesterday morning and this morning, with vastly different waves though the broader parameters looked much the same (swell direction, wind, tide).

The difference was that yesterday was an easing mid-period SE swell whilst today seemed to have a mix of building E'ly trade swell and some underlong long period S'ly groundswell (the Tweed buoy picked up its leading edge of 22+ seconds overnight, see below). This was causing a lot of overlapping swell trains and weird double-ups, but you could see the long period energy standing up a couple of hundred metre offshore, which was impressive. 

The D'Bah surfcam seems to show alternating distances between swell lines too (indicating a mix of swells).

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thermalben commented Friday, 20 Sep 2019 at 11:11am

And here's a sequence of a nice set at D'Bah!