Weekend o' east and south swell
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 22nd May)
Best Days: Most days should have great waves, though it'll be a little windy at times (mainly Sun thru' Mon, and more likely in the south than up north).
Recap: Thursday delivered strong E’ly swells around 4-5ft across parts of Northern NSW, but smaller at less exposed locations such as the regional points. Winds were light NW in some regions but eased off through the day. Size eased from this source today, generally 3ft at most coasts but occasionally 3-4ft at reliable swell magnets. We’ve seen light variable winds (generally some kind of northerly) and clean conditions throughout. A series of new southerly swells started to fill into the Mid North Coast during the day and started to push 4-6ft at south swell magnets by late in the day (for reference, Southern NSW reached 8-10ft+).
This weekend (May 23 - 24)
The weekend forecast for Southern NSW - although very dynamic - is also relatively straightforward, thanks mainly to the slow moving nature of a large, powerful Tasman Low just east of the mainland.
Northern NSW is a different ballgame though.
The fetch responsible for today’s increase will contract slightly to the west into Saturday, which is situated inside the swell shadow of the Hunter curve (south from Seal Rocks). The Tasman Low will undergo a broadening of its western flank - and associated southerly fetch - from Saturday night onwards, which will generate large southerly swells from late Sunday through Monday, holding into Tuesday - but prior to then, developments within our south swell window are likely to be very flukey and can’t relied on as a source of consistent surf this weekend.
Which would normally be a right pain in the arse for the weekend surf outlook, except that we fortunately have a lovely east swell on the way, generated by a stationary, deepening trough north of New Zealand over the last few days. Early Saturday may be a little undersized, but we’re looking at building energy by the afternoon with Sunday shaping up very nicely, with inconsistent 3-5ft sets on offer.
Saturday will offer the best conditions with all-day westerlies across most coasts. Sunday morning should see morning westerly winds across most regions, but we’ll see a wind shift to the S/SW at strength across the Mid North Coast during the morning, probably reaching Byron around early afternoon (SE Qld may see favourable W/SW winds all day, ideal for the beaches).
So, back to the southern swell window. Also in the water on Saturday will be some long period energy from a mid-week polar low well south of the continent (generating swell periods in the 17-18 second range). This swell will peak Saturday with very inconsistent 4-5ft sets south from Byron, and much smaller surf elsewhere.
As for southerly swells originating from the Tasman Low, confidence is certainly not high on this scenario but best estimates are for an early flush of short range energy from today’s pulse on Saturday morning (5-6ft+ sets south facing beaches south of Byron, smaller elsewhere), before it eases during the day and into Sunday morning. A rebuilding S’ly swell will kick in throughout Sunday, though the accompanying wind shift to the S/SW will render all but the most sheltered locations very bumpy (south facing beaches south of Yamba could reach 6-8ft+ by dark, though Monday may be a safer bet for this size across the Far North Coast).
Next week (May 25 onwards)
Next week has stacks of swell in store for the region.
The Tasman Low will remain in our swell window until Tuesday (!) which means we’ll see elevated swells persisting through until Wednesday before easing more prominently around Thursday, and the swell direction will tend more S/SE then SE thanks to a broadening fetch on its southern flank from Sunday onwards.
First up, the east swell building through Sunday should peak early Monday though it’ll still be very inconsistent with 4-5ft sets at exposed beaches.
The late Sunday surge of new S’ly swell may reach an early peak of 6-8ft+ at south facing beaches (south of Byron), but I think the models are overcooking this development and we may see a quick drop back into the 6ft+ range at some point during the day (more likely across the Mid North Coast than the Far North Coast). As per usual, expect much smaller surf at beaches not completely exposed to the south.
More importantly, we’ll see gusty SW tending S/SW winds across most coasts, lighter north of the border, and this will mainly favour sheltered points and protected southern ends.
All parameters will ease into Tuesday - the local SW breeze back to moderate strength on the Mid North Coast, tending light and variable north from the border, and the S/SE swell will ease from 5-6ft to 4-5ft at south facing beaches south of Byron (bigger in the Hunter, smaller elsewhere), with the inconsistent E’ly swell easing to 3-4ft across all coasts.
By Wednesday we’ll be back to light variable winds everywhere, and a steady S/SE tending SE swell in the 4-5ft range, before easing from 3-4ft to 2-3ft on Thursday, though supplemented by some small E’ly swell, generated from a fetch exiting western Cook Strait mid-week. All the while there'll be small, easing distant E’ly energy from earlier in the week.
Southern ends across Northern NSW and much of SE Qld will be smaller in size throughout the week thanks to the swell direction, but as it veers more SE we should see a slightly broader coverage of energy.
Thursday may see a front push into the southern Tasman Sea, generating some short range south swell for Northern NSW on Friday, but that’s a long time away and there’s a lot of surfing to do between now and then.
Stay safe, see you Monday!