Tricky outlook ahead; look for the dips, not the peaks
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 5th August)
Best Days: Fun open beaches for the next few days. Tricky outlook beyond that but Sunday's looking good for the open beaches, and Tuesday should offer a window of action across most of the points.
Recap: E’ly swells pulsed back to 3-4ft across Northern NSW on Tuesday (odd bigger set Mid North Coast), holding 3ft across open SE Qld beaches. This energy has persisted into today thanks to the arrival of a slightly longer period though more distant pulse of energy, and therefore set waves have become much less consistent. Conditions were clean across open beaches both mornings with light W/NW winds but we’ve seen freshening N’lies throughout the afternoons.
This week (Aug 6 - 7)
It’s been a long run of easterly swell, but we’re not done yet. However, consistency will be a big issue in the short term.
A sub-tropical low positioned well east of New Zealand late last week and over the weekend will maintain a similar level of size out of the east as today (inconsistent 3ft+ sets Far Northern NSW, 2-3ft exposed SE Qld beaches and Mid North Coast) but there could be twenty minutes or more between waves, thanks to the long travel distance. Both Thursday and Friday should see sporadic waves from this source.
Conditions should improve quite a bit on Thursday as a weak ridge pushes eastwards off the coast, creating generally light variable winds (if anything, periods of moderate S/SW winds in the far south, and light northerlies in SE Qld after lunch).
On Thursday afternoon, the leading edge of a new S’ly swell is expected to reach the Mid North Coast, generated by a deepening low east of Tasmania. New swell energy from this low will arrive in a few stages.
The first energy (late Thursday MNC, overnight into Friday morning elsewhere) will be related to a thin fetch of southerly gales currently strengthening east of Bass Strait and nosing into the Far South Coast (see first image below).
A secondary S’ly tending S/SE swell will fill in throughout Friday afternoon along the Mid North Coast (Saturday elsewhere), sourced from a broadening phase of the low a little further east (more in the central/southern Tasman) throughout Thursday (see second image below).
Although there’ll be a few pulses of energy through this period, it’s probably easiest to hold steady with a broad size outlook for the peak of this swell, around 3-4ft+ at south facing beaches though much smaller at beaches not open to the south. SE Qld won’t pick up much, if any of the initial S’ly pulse, as it will have been generated in the swell shadow of the Hunter curve.
Indeed, even the late Thurs/early Fri pulse across Northern NSW is only low confidence due to the flukey source, so keep your expectations low. However, as Friday progresses, surf potential should increase across Northern NSW - and very late afternoon may show a few small lines across the outer Gold Coast points if we’re lucky.
Friday’s conditions look dicey anyway, with freshening E’ly winds as a coastal trough envelops the region. We’ll see a period of light winds in the morning, and locations further south (i.e. the Mid North Coast) may see this persist until early afternoon, but it’s likely we’ll see poor conditions into the afternoon across many regions.
So, Thursday is the pick.
This weekend (Aug 8 - 9)
There’s still a lot of uncertainty regarding a developing surface trough and possible ECL or Tasman Low off Southern NSW this weekend (and early next week).
As I mentioned in the headline "look for the dips, not the peaks" - the outlook period looks like producing the best waves either side of the major swell pulses, which will be invariably accompanied by tricky (if not difficult) winds. The smaller surf days look to have the best conditions and will therefore produce the best surf conditions in general.
Just before I get into the developing low off Southern NSW, a secondary front racing up to merge with the upcoming low in the southern Tasman Sea (tomorrow) will maintain 4ft+ S/SE energy through Saturday at south facing beaches south of Byron, smaller elsewhere (especially SE Qld). This swell will ease into Sunday.
The developing trough is expected to be quite complex from a surf forecasting perspective, because it’ll initially deepen along the coastal fringe, then push out into the Tasman Sea, before consolidating around a surface low off Southern NSW by late Sunday, by that stage out of our swell window.
The upshot is that Saturday will probably see temporary E’ly and NE fetches develop within our swell window, but not in a particularly consolidated fashion, and then they’ll initially retreat eastwards. Not a great development for swell production to kick off proceedings.
Winds will eventually swing westerly and freshen, this is most likely on Sunday though we can’t rule out an afternoon change on Saturday. There is certainly a northerly risk on Saturday morning though, particularly south from Byron.
As for size (in addition to the aforementioned S/SE swell), early indications are for 3-4ft NE tending E’ly surf on Saturday throughout SE Qld and Far Northern NSW, a little smaller on the Mid North Coast. Wave heights will probably ease slowly into Sunday though with the westerly breeze there’ll be good beachies around.
Let’s reevaluate in more details on Friday.
Next week (Aug 10 onwards)
The developing low off Southern NSW will push a fetch of gale force S/SW tending S/SW winds across the Mid North Coast by Monday afternoon, reaching the Far North Coast and SE Qld - in a weakened state - overnight into Tuesday morning.
We’ll see a temporary spike in large SE swell from this system though the low looks like it’ll be short lived; whisked away to the east post-haste, so a rapid drop in size is expected from late Tuesday (MNC) and through Wednesday (further north).
Surf size could reach a windy affected 6ft+ across the Mid North Coast, 4-6ft across the Northern Rivers and then 3ft across outer Gold Coast points, smaller on the Sunshine Coast. Tuesday is obviously the pick of the period for the points but I’m just not confident it’ll be an especially great swell event due to the brief tenure of the low.
Also in the mix through this time frame - though it may be hard to discern beneath the local noise - will be several strong, long period S’ly groundswell generated by a conveyor belt of powerful polar lows slowing below Tasmania and up into New Zealand. The first is expected to build later Monday and peak around 4-5ft+ at south facing beaches south of Byron on Tuesday morning, easing later Tuesday before a secondary pulse delivers inconsistent 3-4ft sets on Wednesday afternoon and probably Thursday too.
We are also at risk of problematic mid-week northerlies so don’t get too excited about next week’s surf prospects. ‘
Long term surf options hinge around a couple of sources, including local N’ly windswell, modest E’ly trade swell from the top of a Tasman high, and another pulse of small long period S’ly swell from a polar low pushing up from underneath Tasmania.
So, lots to keep a watch out for!
See you Friday.