Poor options short term, looking better long term
South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 27th November)
Best Days: Wed: peaky, easing S'ly swell with improving winds in Northern NSW by the arvo. Thurs/Fri: interesting, flukey long period south groundswell.
Recap: Been a mixed bag over the last few days. Northern NSW has seen great waves both days, up to 3ft in the north, and 3-4ft across parts of the Mid North Coast (fractionally higher than the 3ft+ forecast), but SE Qld dipped out, coming in under budget with slow 1-2ft sets at the open beaches. Not really sure why the swell seemed to stop at the border, as this kind of size disparity usually happens under straight south swells (this event was south-east). Anyway, conditions have been clean through the mornings with afternoon sea breezes adding a few lumps and bumps. Winds are now freshening N/NE along the Mid North Coast.
This weekend (Nov 28 - 29)
You can essentially forget almost the entire weekend. Why? Gusty northerly winds, and a lack of decent swell.
Actually, Saturday morning will see light winds north of about Byron, so conditions should be clean but there’s simply no surf to get excited about here. A building ridge through the Coral Sea is not very strong, and it’s poorly aligned for our region, so we won’t see much more than 1-1.5ft at the open beaches. A small distant E’ly groundswell is expected to appear through the day and stray 1-2ft sets are possible though there’ll be extremely long breaks between waves.
And although exposed beaches in Northern NSW may pick up the tail end of today’s fading SE swell, its poor performance north of the border over the last 36 hours doesn’t lend much confidence to what’s only likely to be a small surf at best anyway.
South of the border, the N’ly flow will kick in earlier on Saturday and it’ll persist through Sunday, at strength - generating local windswells for open beaches though severely lacking in quality. If you’re super keen, early morning may offer a few small leftovers from today’s SE swell, at sheltered northern corners. That’s about it.
As a side note, the Mid North Coast (probably the lower half) may see winds veer N/NW on Sunday afternoon as a trough approaches from the south but it’s unlikely to result in anything favourable surf wise.
Next week (Nov 30 onwards)
A southerly change on the backside of Sunday’s approaching trough will push into the Mid North Coast overnight Sunday, reaching Yamba by dawn - though it may stall across the Northern Rivers.
So, the wind outlook for Far Northern NSW and SE Qld is not yet clear. But again, without any major swell there’s nothing to get excited about. The best we can hope for is a small N’ly windswell at a handful of north-facing swell magnets on the southern Gold and Tweed Coasts. I’ll peg size around 1-2ft, with smaller surf elsewhere.
A brief flush of punchy south swell is expected later Monday (across Northern NSW), sourced from a tight low attached to the change. Winds should ease rapidly behind the change so there’a a chance for lumpy 3-4ft surf at south swell magnets on Monday afternoon but I’m doubtful for any major quality.
Wave heights will then ease steadily into Tuesday, as N’ly winds freshen again as another S’ly change approaches from the south. It’s due into Coffs around dawn Wednesday, and should cross the border by early afternoon - and we’ll see small N’ly windswells ahead of it (like Monday), and then a building S’ly windswell in the wake of the change. However, nothing great is expected at this stage, as all of the swell sources will be local and the wind outlook is too tricky to have confidence in any windows of opportunity.
Thursday’s looking ordinary, with easing S’ly windswells sourced from the trailing fetch behind Wednesday's change, and abating S’ly winds. There’s unlikely to be much size across SE Qld, so Northern NSW will probably offer the best combo as conditions gradually improve.
Wednesday’s change will be attached to an incredible Southern Ocean low (see below) that’s expected to ‘bomb’ south of Tasmania on Tuesday (a bombing low is one where the central pressure drops by more than 24hPa in 24 hours). As a result, we’re looking at an impressive southerly swell filling in across Northern NSW into Thursday and Friday.
The models aren’t resolving this swell very well, perhaps because the low is not expected to be ideally aimed within our swell window - for the record, our surf model is estimating about 2-3ft from this event across Northern NSW's south facing magnets.
However, with core winds around the low’s slow moving centre expected to be upwards of 50kts, peak swell periods should reach 18-20 seconds, and this should greatly exaggerate surf size at reliable south swell magnets. Of course, beaches not open to the south will be much smaller. And, we probably won't see much, if any surf from it in SE Qld.
Ballpark size right now is in the 5-6ft+ range at the swell magnets at the height of the event (late Thursday MNC, Friday Northern Rivers), but I’ll fine tune the specifics on Monday’s update - small tweaks in the position and/or alignment of the low could dramatically increase (or decrease) projected wave heights. Early indications are for light winds too, so it’s shaping up to be a quality southerly swell event - though the flukey nature of the swell source (an intense though partially shadowed, poorly aligned low) and the long swell periods means there’ll be a wide variety in wave height response from beach to beach (read: some locations will do very well, other spots will dip out).
Have a good weekend, see you Monday!