Flukey, intermittent southerly swells with tricky winds

South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 9th December)

Best Days: Tues: early options at northern corners south of Byron (not much in SE Qld) with easing S'ly swell before the wind picks up. Late Wed thru' Sun: small inconsistent S'ly swell in Northern NSW (tiny in SE Qld), though winds are tricky. Thurs the pick at this stage.  

Recap: Southerly swells dominated Northern NSW over the weekend, though minor NE wind swells occupied SE Qld beaches as well, biggest Saturday up to 1-2ft. The southerly swell didn’t offer much size north of the border (away from south swell magnets, which saw occasional 2ft+ sets yesterday and this morning) but it was a different story south from Byron, with Saturday easing from 3-4ft to 2-3ft, ahead of a strong resurgence in size on Sunday that pushed 4-5ft+ at south swell magnets (reports from Southern NSW were up to 6ft+ as well). Wave heights eased to 3-4ft this morning and should maintain plenty of size all day (Southern NSW is still 3ft this morning, from the same source). The weekend’s winds were complex as a southerly change pushed up the coast on Saturday, but some regions saw variable conditions for a period. Sunday saw early light winds freshen from the SE through the day and this morning has eased back to a light variable flow ahead of developing sea breezes later. 

Strong S'ly swell in Coffs early Sunday

Leftover S'ly swell in Coffs this morning

Fun though small S'ly swell at D'Bah this morning

This week (Dec 10 - 13)

We’ve got a tricky week of local winds, which will have a major bearing on surf quality in a few regions.

As it is, SE Qld won’t see much surf, with a dominant ridge through the Coral Sea too north in latitude to favour swell prospects south of the Capricornia coast. A smaller ridge just off the Northern NSW (today) will generate small E’ly swells for the Gold Coast (tomorrow) but probably not the Sunshine Coast, and the existing southerly swell (that’s really not doing much) will only ease from here on so don’t expect much size from this direction either.

Northern NSW will see a slow decline in size into Tuesday, still 3ft at south facing beaches south of Byron early morning but gradually easing throughout the day. Early morning should offer a brief window of light NW winds but otherwise expect the northerly to pick up during the day. 

A shallow southerly change moving up the Southern NSW coast late Tuesday will stall off the Mid North Coast by Wednesday, and should slightly disrupt the northerly flow across this region, pushing a finger of southerly winds as far north as Coffs Harbour before it retreats further south into Thursday. The trough will probably linger off the coast all week - current model guidance suggests another equator-ward push on Friday, pushing southerly winds up to about Byron early morning - but there’s not a lot of confidence in this right now.

North of the trough, we’ll see variable for winds for a stretch of coast, and then even further north, N’ly winds will feed into the trough. Expect the southern extent of the northerly flow to ebb and flow: as a rough guide, occupying most coasts on Tuesday, retreating north to the border Wednesday, then pushing south to Yamba or Coffs Thursday before pulling back to the Sunshine Coast on Friday (or thereabouts).

As for surf, a decent Southern Ocean front will kick up a new though infrequent S’ly swell for late Wednesday (Mid North Coast), providing inconsistent but fun 3ft surf at south facing beaches south of Byron into Thursday. But there will be very long breaks between the sets. 

Note: this swell isn’t showing on the model guidance right now so it’s not a particular confident event. And away from the region’s reliable south swell magnets, wave heights will be much smaller. 
A small mix of S’ly swells will then pad out Friday with size easing to 2ft or so at south facing beaches south of Byron, much smaller elsewhere. The local southerly airstream is unlikely to do many favours for surf quality though.

This weekend (Dec 14 - 15)

Southern NSW will pick up a small S’ly swell on Friday from a few sources, including strong SW winds exiting Bass Strait. We’ll see this swell across Northern NSW into Saturday, though no major size is like (2ft south facing beaches south of Byron, smaller elsewhere). Frontal systems further south of Tasmania on Thursday are likely to offer some small secondary swell in the mix.

The main source responsible for this source (exiting eastern Bass Strait) is expected to marginally strengthen over the weekend, though tilt slightly less favourably away from our swell window. So, we need to split the difference - the stronger, more sustained winds are theoretically capable of a little more size, but the poor alignment will reduce the number of beaches (south of Byron) that will pick up any swell. 

As such, we’ll probably see similarly small southerly swells persisting at south facing beaches south of Byron into Sunday, with not a lot of size elsewhere. 

At least conditions look generally OK with light variable winds and sea breezes. 

Next week (Dec 16 onwards)

The long term outlook suggests a steady progression of average cold fronts migrating from the Southern Ocean into the Lower Tasman Sea, though the general storm track doesn’t look conducive for any major size. 

Elsewhere, and there’s no suggestion for any major activity in the Tasman Sea, and though there is some trade swell activity developing south of Fiji, it doesn’t look very strong at this stage. 

However, there is some interesting model output further afield, with a broad, complex low pressure trough likely to develop north-east from New Zealand later this week (see below), in our far eastern swell window, and this may offer some fun background E’ly swell for next week in the 2-3ft+ range at exposed beaches (though extremely inconsistent).

See you Wednesday!


thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Monday, 9 Dec 2019 at 11:18am

FYI, today's FC Notes are the first to be entirely researched, written, edited and published from 30,000 feet.

I knew this day was gonna come. My one offline sanctuary, destroyed.

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thermalben commented Monday, 9 Dec 2019 at 11:25am

And I'm bursting to 27Mbps. Far out, that's better than most of my bloody surfcam landline connections. 

waxyfeet's picture
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waxyfeet commented Monday, 9 Dec 2019 at 1:04pm

Ha, better than on land in many cases!

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donweather commented Monday, 9 Dec 2019 at 11:34pm

Clearly the airlines don’t use Telstra!! ;)

surfiebum's picture
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surfiebum commented Monday, 9 Dec 2019 at 11:26am

I don't think my liver can cope with this SC flat spell much longer...

waxyfeet's picture
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waxyfeet commented Monday, 9 Dec 2019 at 1:07pm

Or my bank balance!
There's a weird, counter intuitive, relationship between me buying surfboards, and flat spells....let me explain.

The flatter it gets for the longest period, the more I'm inclined to start looking to buy step-ups, step-downs, daily drives, high performance short board, Twins, and soft tops. Right now, our swell's not been above 1/2 foot 5 sec slop, yet there's a couple of Pyzel Ghosts and Gary McNeil Entity pin step ups that's looking mighty tempting.

YET, when there's waves on tap, I'm hardly looking at any boards, and I', just surfing what I got.

adsi's picture
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adsi commented Monday, 9 Dec 2019 at 6:37pm

Go the ghost it's epic

Jono's picture
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Jono commented Monday, 9 Dec 2019 at 8:28pm

I was looking at the Ghost (and the Phantom) and ended up picking up a Stuart Bender Mini Gun which seemed to be sort of similar - a bit more width forwards, bit less rocker, but still enough to hold tight when the waves get good. So far it's going great.

adsi's picture
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adsi commented Tuesday, 10 Dec 2019 at 11:01am

Yeah i have a phantom and a ghost, both are good boards, phantom goes well from 2-5ft ghost 4ft+

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Monday, 9 Dec 2019 at 11:48am

Still pumping in Coffs. Still empty.

TheNige85's picture
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TheNige85 commented Monday, 9 Dec 2019 at 2:47pm

Yew, hopefully puts on the goods over Xmas. Miss those empty lineups