Coupla days of small beachies, then a poor weekend, but a lot on the boil for next week
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 30th March)
Best Days: Tues/Wed: small peaky beachies with early light winds. Next week: lots of strong sources, including a possible cyclone swell.
Recap: We saw a mix of swells over the weekend, with light morning winds and afternoon sea breezes each day. SE swell from a trough in the central Tasman provided 3-4ft surf to the Mid North Coast on Saturday and Sunday, with smaller options north from Coffs, though SE Qld and Far Northern NSW saw building E’ly swells from a northern Tasman ridge see size increase from 2-3ft Saturday to 3-4ft by Sunday. Wave heights peaked overnight and have eased slowly today though some locations are still picking up 3ft sets this afternoon. There’s also a small S’ly swell across Northern NSW too.
This week (Mar 31 - Apr 3)
A ridge through the northern Tasman Sea and Coral Sea is still reasonably active today, though it’s not ideally aligned within our swell window. We’ll see slow E’ly swells for the next day or two, biggest across SE Qld with inconsistent 2-3ft sets at the wide open beaches, and smaller surf south from about Ballina. Expect a slow decrease from Wednesday afternoon through Thursday.
There are no other new swell sources elsewhere so we’re looking at a quiet period best suited to the wide open beaches for the next few days, through until Thursday.
Conditions look OK for the next few days. A weak front will cross Southern NSW overnight, swinging winds to the southern quadrant across Northern NSW on Tuesday, though SE Qld and Far Northern NSW will see early NW winds (possibly N’ly in one or two locations). This should peter out by lunch, and swing to a light to moderate afternoon sea breeze.
Locally light winds and sea breezes are expected on Wednesday and early Thursday, though freshening N/NE winds are expected in Northern NSW on Thursday afternoon as a trough approaches from the west.
A weak trough developing in the Central Northern Tasman Sea mid-week may build a small mid-range E/SE swell for Thursday and Friday but I don’t like its short fetch and off-axis alignment within our swell window. Perhaps we’ll see some 2ft sets at exposed beaches north from Ballina through to the Sunshine Coast but northerlies will be a risk in all areas from Thursday afternoon through into Friday.
Otherwise, the only other swell source on tap for Friday is the leading edge of a small long period E’ly swell generated by an impressive though extremely distant tropical depression in the Far South Pacific over the weekend. Peak swell periods will probably spike to 16+ seconds at the buoys, and if we’re lucky some exposed beaches may pick up inconsistent 3ft+ sets by late afternoon, though they’ll be extremely inconsistent - perhaps 20 mins or more between waves. This is a very low confidence event (especially without great winds at many spots either) so keep your expectations very low.
Just on Friday’s winds: the northerly risk will be concentrated mainly between the Gold Coast and the northern Mid North Coast. So, the Sunshine Coast and anywhere south of Coffs should see at least a period of light winds, probably the morning. I’ll firm up the specifics on Wednesday.
This weekend (Apr 4 - 5)
The aforementioned long range E’ly swell is modeled to reach a peak on Saturday before easing Sunday. As previously discussed, it’s a very low confidence event but we are likely to see occasional 3-4ft sets at exposed beaches - though there will be excruciatingly long breaks between waves.
In any case it doesn’t matter much as a deepening trough approaching from the west will freshen northerly winds across all coasts, both days. We’ll see pockets of N/NW winds here and there - and probably some peaky N/NE windswell too - but at this stage it’s not looking like a great weekend for surfing.
Next week (April 6 onwards)
A developing high pressure system over New Zealand later this week will strengthening an E/SE fetch just north of its North Island into the weekend, and this will build E’ly swells for our coasts early next week, with size increasing to 2-3ft for Monday and Tuesday. The weekend's long range swell will be all but gone by then.
A deep trough related to this fetch will be positioned much further SE, poorly aligned and also right inside the New Zealand swell shadow (see below) - which ordinarily would be ruled out as a swell source for much of Northern NSW, and a flukey swell source for SE Qld. However, we've seen some impressive results from similarly positioned systems over the last six months, so I'll keep a close eye on this. Current ETA from this source will be mid-late next week, persisting for a few days.
A broad trough encompassing much of the eastern states over the weekend will push a cut-off low into our south swell window early in the week, generating a solid southerly swell for much of the NSW Coast. It’s too early to pin down specifics but well worth keeping a watch on.
More interestingly, model guidance is also suggesting a tropical cyclone may form in the Coral Sea this weekend, and the current long term synoptic charts are suggesting little in the way of steering winds - which (if anything) is a positive for our swell potential as it’ll allow the cyclone to slowly slip southwards into the Northern Tasman Sea. So, we could be looking at a significant short range NE tending E’ly swell sometime next week too.
That’s a lot to digest! See you Wednesday.