Patchy short term period, but the long term is shaping up nicely
UNLESS YOU LIVE AT THE BEACH, PLEASE DON'T TRAVEL TO SURF
COVID-19 is changing the way we think about surfing. Travelling to the surf now means you're putting an unnecessary strain on the resources of small regional communities. So, please stay home. If you live near the beach and want to surf, please maintain a healthy spacing in the lineup, don't hang in the carpark, and keep your surf sessions shorter to allow others the opportunity to get wet. Above all, stay happy, healthy and look out for one another.
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 28th February)
Best Days: Sat/Sun: fun S'ly groundswell for Northern NSW (peaking Sun), generally favourable morning winds. Mon: brief peak of strong, long period S'ly swell in Northern NSW (much smaller in SE Qld). Mon thru' following weekend: slowly building distant E'ly groundswell. Wed onwards: more S'ly groundswell in Northern NSW.
Recap: Thursday saw much smaller surf as Wednesday’s E’ly and S’ly swell mix eased back to a weak 1-2ft at exposed beaches. Wave heights have picked up again this morning, notably out of the south (across Northern NSW) with south facing beaches seeing 3-4ft sets. SE Qld has seen a small pulse in E’ly swell to 2ft. Light winds and sea breezes are creating clean conditions.
This weekend (Feb 29 - Mar 1)
A southerly change is pushing along the Southern NSW coast today, and will reach Northern NSW overnight. This will freshen SE winds across Far Northern NSW and SE Qld on Saturday, though we’ll see the pressure gradient relax across Northern NSW (south from about Ballina or Yamba), resulting in lighter, more variable winds and sea breezes. A few locations north from here may see early SW winds though they’ll be the exception rather than the rule.
Light winds are expected across all areas on Sunday under a weak pressure pattern, with afternoon sea breeze generating local bumps.
As for surf, we’ll see small E’ly swells all weekend across all coasts, increasing marginally though only favourable for the open beaches. This swell has been generated in the South Pacific (north-east of New Zealand) so it’ll be very inconsistent. Set waves may top 2ft+ at exposed swell magnets but there’ll be long breaks between waves.
In addition to this, Northern NSW will pick up a fresh S’ly swell from a strong frontal progression currently below Tasmania. It’s not greatly aligned within our south swell window, but the size and strength of the associated fetch should generate a strong, directional pulse energy this weekend.
In fact there are several key swell sources. W/SW gales exiting eastern Bass Strait today will generate an initial pulse across Southern NSW overnight, providing fun 3ft waves at south facing beaches (south of Byron) through Saturday.
Longer period energy already formed under Tasmania will then push through late Saturday (Mid North Coast), reaching remaining coasts early Sunday morning. This should reach 3-4ft+ at reliable south facing beaches, but it’ll be much smaller elsewhere.
Also in the water over the weekend across Northern NSW will be a small, mid-range SE (Saturday arvo) tending E’ly (Sunday), originating from a small developing trough in the central/northern Tasman Sea. Exposed beaches may pick up occasional 2-3ft sets from this system. We won't see much swell from this across SE Qld though.
Next week (March 2 onwards)
In Wednesday’s notes I mentioned a powerful follow up S’ly groundswell reaching Southern NSW overnight Sunday, pushing north into Northern NSW on Monday.
This swell is still on track though the alignment of the core fetch is not favourable for a broad spread of maximum surf size (see below). Peak swell periods should nudge the 18-19 second bracket, and as a result some reliable south swell magnets (south of Byron) could see a peak during the day up around 5-6ft+ range, but I’m expecting many beaches to dip out. Actual wind strengths suggests much higher surf but I feel the fetch alignment will work against this occurring (though it can't be ruled out).
So, let’s peg most of Northern NSW's south facing beaches in the 3-5ft range - very inconsistent at times - with smaller surf elsewhere. I don't think we'll see much size in SE Qld, away from a handful of reliable south facing beaches, which may pick up occasional 2-3ft sets. We’ll also see a continuing combo of small distant E’ly swell from the South Pacific across all coasts, with very inconsistent 2ft+ sets at exposed beaches.
The rest of the week looks very interesting.
A stalled S’ly change off Southern NSW on Monday will probably evolve into a trough off the South Coast during Tuesday, generating peaky SE swells for this region though current guidance suggests it won’t favour anywhere north of the Mid North Coast. I’ll keep an eye on it though, as small changes in the position, strength and alignment could swing things in our favour.
A continual progression of strong Southern Ocean frontal systems will maintain intermittent pulses of S’ly swell from Wednesday thru’ Friday, pulsing around the 4ft range at south facing beaches south of Byron.
Elsewhere, we’ll see a continual background source of E’ly swell from a stationary E’ly fetch in the South Pacific, atop a large high pressure system. This will generate intermittent surf all week, initially small in size but slowly building towards a peak later in the week and over the weekend, favouring all coasts. At this stage I’m expecting maximum surf size around 3-4ft+ from this event, but you’ll have be patient as it’s still just over a week away.
Have a great weekend!