thermalben

Strong S/SE swells, improving conditions

South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 20th January)

Features of the Forecast (tl;dr)

  • Large S/SE swells throughout Northern NSW Thurs/Fri (much smaller in SE Qld)
  • Generally good winds throughout - just a SE risk on the Sunny Coast Thurs, and a N'ly risk on the MNC Fri
  • Fun weekend of waves though N'ly affected at times on the MNC
  • Lots of tropical potential long term with building trade swells Sun onwards and a punchy E'ly groundswell mid-late next week

Recap: Well, it’s been an interesting couple of days to say the least. Tuesday offered similarly fun south swells as Monday in the 4ft range across the Mid North Coast, but much more variable results further north (and bugger all in SE Qld). A large southerly groundswell pushed up the Southern NSW coast overnight, under-performing across most regions south from the Hunter and also north from Yamba, but coming in pretty close to spec across the Mid North Coast (8-10ft sets at south swell magnets). Unfortunately, SE Qld really dipped out with outer points offering slow 1-2ft sets, and south swell magnets occasionally reached 3ft+. For the record, we’ve had intermittent reports throughout the day statewide - seemingly without any kind of obvious pattern or geographical trend - where the surf has pulsed strongly, but despite the impressive surf around Coffs Harbour (see images below), it’s fair to say that broadly speaking, we haven’t seen anything quite what was expected. Of course, the big question is why? Ususally, when hindcasting major non-events, it’s possible to see gaps in the forecast methodology, and areas where (perhaps) general assumptions glossed over important characteristics that - with 20/20 vision - resulted in an erroneous forecast. However this event is unusual, in that given the opportunity to forecast again, I probably wouldn't deviate much from the previous script. This swell was first noted in these notes nine days ago, and the models held very consistently throughout, so confidence was high - finally validated in the ASCAT satellite pass that confirmed the size and strength of the storm. However, we have a few ideas as to what went wrong - but, such analysis is better left to an individual report, which we’ll try to prepare in the coming week. 

Powerful groundswell lines in Coffs

Solid at The Pass early Wed afternoon

Small peaky overlapping swells at D'Bah

This week (Jan 21 - 22)

One of the difficulties in preparing a forecast at a time like this, is trying to seperate the events of the last 24 hours from what’s expected over the coming days.

Although we’re in the midst of a tricky, week-long cycle of solid, overlapping southerly swells, today’s under-performance doesn’t necessarily have a bearing on the swell potential from the latter stages of the same parent low, as it maintains strength off the SW tip of New Zealand’s South Island. Of course, confidence may be somewhat diminished - but we shouldn’t necessarily downgrade the next two days proportionate to what occurred (or more accurately, didn’t occur) today. 

And, as it were, Thursday and Friday were both meant to offer the better waves of this event anyway (the exact phrase in Monday’s notes was “The backside of this swell looks the pick anyway”, and last Friday’s notes said “In many ways, despite the easing trend, Thursday and Friday may end up offering the best quality swell energy of the whole period”). 

So, what can we expect?

Firstly, surface conditions will be a heck of a lot better - Thursday south from Byron, and Friday north from Byron. 

A high pressure system will move across the region on Thursday, bringing light variable winds to most of Northern NSW though a persistent ridge across the Qld coast will maintain S'ly tending SE winds here at times, mainly the Sunshine Coast.

Friday will see freshening N’ly winds across the Mid North Coast as a Tasman high strengthens a little, but there’ll be a window of light N/NW winds early morning. We’ll see a longer window of opportunity north from Coffs, and the afternoon winds shouldn’t become too strong in SE Qld. 

As for surf, we’ll see the swell direction slowly swing to the S/SE. Model guidance has an easing trend from today into tomorrow, but I'm ignoring the initial trend because the energy from the next few days will be sourced from two new regions - the migratory path of the low across the Southern Tasman Sea, as well as some sideband S/SE groundswell from the core of the low off the NZ coast today (see below). 

Although the low is now not aimed ideally within our swell window, the sheer length and breadth of the fetch - plus the strength of the core winds - should allow for 6ft+ sets at south facing beaches south of Byron throughout Thursday. Though as per usual surf size will be a lot smaller at locations not open to the south (not quite as much as straight south swells, mind). 

SE Qld should finally see better surf prospects thanks to the slight tweak in swell direction. Though, set waves will be very inconsistent, and I’m not confident for much more than a slow 2ft, maybe 2-3ft across the outer points, and long flat spells between waves (note: this isn't ideal for crowded conditions). Expect bigger 4ft+ sets at exposed northern ends and south swell magnets. Aim for the open beaches for the best options.

We usually allow 36-48 hours travel time from these kinds of systems in this neck of the woods, so given the current fetch was active as of this morning, strong sideband S/SE energy should persist into Friday morning, before wave heights start to ease into the afternoon.

Yes, this is bigger than the model is estimating, but it's a common occurrence with cut-off lows in the south-east Tasman, so I'm reasonably confident we'll see strong - though increasingly inconsistent - surf for the next two days.

This weekend (Jan 23 - 24)

There’s no change to the weekend outlook.

We’ve got a weekend of northerlies across the Mid North Coast as a trough of low pressure across Southern NSW pushes up against a Tasman high. However, these effects won’t be anywhere near as noticeable north form Byron, so expect reasonable periods of light variable winds through the mornings across SE Qld.

Saturday will see easing S/SE swells from Friday, still 3-4ft+ at south facing beaches south of Byron initially (1-2ft SE Qld outer points, 2-3ft exposed northern ends), easing through the day. Expect smaller surf at beaches not open to the south.

On Sunday, we’ll start to see a small building trade swell from a ridge developing in the lower Coral Sea from Friday onwards. This swell will become dominant next week but Sunday will start to see an uptick across SE Qld, with 2ft surf building to 2-3ft through the day. Smaller waves from this source are expected south of Byron.

However, Sunday will concurrently see some small long period S’ly groundswell, originating from a poorly aligned though otherwise impressive low southwest of Tasmania from tomorrow onwards. This is way more flukier than the source that generated today’s energy, so let’s just say this won’t be a high confidence event.

Nevertheless, this long period S’ly swell should build slowly through the day, and south facing beaches south of Byron could pick up inconsistent 3-4ft sets by close of business. Don’t expect much size elsewhere though. 

Next week (Jan 25 onwards)

The deep Southern Ocean low responsible for Sunday’s swell will migrate very slowly eastwards through our south swell window, so it’s looking like we’ll pick up fluctuating levels of small long period S’ly tending S/SE swell through the first half of next week. At this stage Monday and Tuesday could both see intermittent 3ft+ sets at south facing beaches south of Byron. 

Otherwise, the long term outlook is still looking very positive from a tropical point of view, with broadening trades through the weekend and into next week (building E’ly swells across all coasts) and the evolution of a tropical low in the central/northern Tasman Sea during the first half of next week that has the potential for a significant E’ly groundswell during the middle to latter part of next week, ballpark 4-6ft or so at exposed beaches. 

Quite a dynamic summer, eh?

See you Friday!

Comments

dangerouskook2000's picture
dangerouskook2000's picture
dangerouskook2000 commented Wednesday, 20 Jan 2021 at 8:05pm

Inconsistent is the right word. Didn't look like much on the Tweed this arve when I checked but there were some pretty solid bombs coming through about every half hour. I'm calling 5ft+. Hopefully as you mentioned in the report the main swell will fill in overnight as we get them a day later up here. We will see, Big board already to go regardless

Geereg's picture
Geereg's picture
Geereg commented Wednesday, 20 Jan 2021 at 9:37pm

14 feet at Dbah in that photo!
Ah, it’s just 7 people on one wave..

Gg

Bob Sacamano's picture
Bob Sacamano's picture
Bob Sacamano commented Wednesday, 20 Jan 2021 at 10:50pm

This weekend is June 23-24? Holy shit times flying

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 7:11am

Argh. Weird auto-correct going on (happened the other day too).

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 7:11am

Banks at D'Bah all over the shop right now. But.. plenty of swell.

Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone's picture
Nick Bone commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 11:56am

Screen grabs are 2 mins apart but look like 2 different days

I am the bone

lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy's picture
lostdoggy commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 7:38am

Hopefully these S swells start pushing some sand back in to the hole at snapper.
Looks like it hasn't made an impact yet.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 8:05am

gurgley/lumpy 3-5ft.

winds have beere at Ballina airport all night but it's got SE wind gurgle all over it at the coast.
crazy hype crowd everywhere.

channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 8:44am

Maybe triple overhead at Boomerang and breaking way out. A few hellmen getting excellent waves, although intense paddle out and copping hiding to get the gems.

Well above my pay grade.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 9:46am

Not really happening on the Tweed. Sets are 4-6ft but pretty inconsistent, I didn't see any quality at those break handling the size (not uncommon for around here). Fumbled around on an inside bank for a bit but struggled. Shame too as conditions are good. 

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 10:08am

Fat, lumpy, inconsistant and largely devoid of shape.
The only vague positive is a little bit of size, maybe four or five foot on the biggest sets.
And with these banks, tides aren't helping at all - still a lot of water out there on the neap low.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 10:25am

Clean, straight lines in Coffs.
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Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 11:55am

Coffs is never any good in south swell, your camera is stuck too.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 12:02pm

We've locked it off as the surf is breaking outside of the usual frames. 

Robo's picture
Robo's picture
Robo commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 6:40am

Was fine how it was

AndyM's picture
AndyM's picture
AndyM commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 10:47am

Wish it was as clean as that up here.
These were taken about an hour ago.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 11:23am

really disappointing, thought I saw some sets and waited 2 hrs for a couple of random single wave sets, with that nasty SE gurgle running through it.

file under H.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 11:34am

anywhere handling on the MNC, Tiger, Crg, Simba?

Pops's picture
Pops's picture
Pops commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 11:37am

See channel-bottom's comment above...

He who hesitates is lost

tiger's picture
tiger's picture
tiger commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 1:57pm

Half the size of yesterday morning, at the same spot I checked. Granted it gets SFA from the south, that's why I was surprised yesterday at the energy getting in there. Still had a fun surf, clean 3ft, just had to find the edges of them. Exposed breaks would've had some size to them, but probably very few real options.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 11:40am

Much cleaner and organised down here. There’s a spot down here that I’ve heard for over 2 years from different long term locals that can get good but it’s always been a fat gurgly hoax when I’ve surfed it and really exposed to wind. This morning was solid 4-6ft and one step ladder 10 wave set 6+ which cleaned up the whole bay.
A pleasantly surprising day :)

I'm not cheap,
But I'm free.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 1:34pm

Went down to sit in the sun and loll about in the ocean. The Southerly had pushed in the most beautiful warm , blue water. Crystal clear. There was a great little toy wave rolling for about 150 metres along the edge of the now- massive sand bank.

I sulked for about five minutes- not easy on a picture perfect blue sky day - before saying fuck it and running home to grab a 60 litre foamie. Strapped the shit out of my wrist and one -arm paddled like a mad man to get out there. It might have taken the first fifty metres of the ride to get to my feet but when I finally did......oh sweet , sweet joy.

Caught enough waves till my paddle arm was burning then put on my flippers and kicked into a few screaming body bash waves. One more go out on the foamie and I’m now blissfully cooked.

Turns out surfing makes you happy ! Who could have known ?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 1:56pm

Epic, I would have done the same, good job and did it well not hurting the wrist.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 2:40pm

Risky move.

I honestly don’t know what I’d do if I’d re-injured it. I truly feel for and respect crew who face up to true adversity and maintain their shit. I’m losing my mind after a few weeks and with light at the end of the tunnel.

Yes....would have been tears if I’d broken it again. Worth it though. Turned that frown upside down that’s for sure.

And here’s something: My last dream before waking this morning was of sitting in the channel and watching Mike Ho catch some bombs at Pipe with his hand in a cast. Shout out to Mr Ho for the inspiration !

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 3:11pm

Clean snapped the last inch of my wrist (Radius) which got pushed up and back, sitting on top of of the rest of the bone. Doctor's set it perfectly. 8 week cast, much of it in a sling and it hurt to let it hang down, but I kept skating (and falling). When they finally cut the cast off it had healed at like a 10/15 degree angle. Looked pretty bad with how skinny my arm was, I was worried they'd have to re-break it. They told me it was probably actually stronger with all the bone that had healed around the break and it's never been an issue. Which is a long way of saying look after it until it's healed haha.

channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 1:37pm

Swell appears to have peaked around midday on Mid north coast. North facing point south of Boomerang was fun at 4 -6 foot most of the morning but mobbed.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 1:47pm

There's more on the way...

Rusty Forest's picture
Rusty Forest's picture
Rusty Forest commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 3:20pm

Why not draw a map FFS!

Rusty

channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom's picture
channel-bottom commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 7:28pm

If you were there, you'd know it was no secret.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 8:23pm

There’s always more.

tomrnoir's picture
tomrnoir's picture
tomrnoir commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 9:55pm

How's the grey suit situation down Forster way?

Distracted's picture
Distracted's picture
Distracted commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 5:25pm

That wind forecast for the MNC is looking pretty shite for the next 7 days.

dangerouskook2000's picture
dangerouskook2000's picture
dangerouskook2000 commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 8:26pm

wasn't big but was super fun on the big board. The SUP's were loving it too. I did however see one wave that was massive 8ft i'm calling, way bigger than anything else, at about 7.30am and it broke 100 meters further out. caught everyone by surprise including me and there was nothing else like it for the rest of the time I was out. Shame coz it actually had a nice shape. Oh well still had fun tho

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 8:42pm

Loving the MNC commentary. Nice change to hear more from down there.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 8:46pm

surfed twice today.
took a bigger board out this morning and tried to wait for sets, sets than by and large didn't come.

then a smaller board this arvo to try and hunt the middle button, and wore sets on the head.

Ironically, as the swell went more SSE, a better direction the surf got worse, because the December bank buster left a nasty little shitstain of sand wide, so the sets smeared out like a toddler with a plate of mashed bananas.
the best ones were inside but had to wear the sets on the head.
all with a nasty gurgle through it.

with winter banks and an offshore wind or clean it could have been epic today.

hard not to be frustrated but that water was clear and blue.

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink commented Thursday, 21 Jan 2021 at 11:08pm

It really cranked on central coast post midday, then pulsed throughout the afternoon. Was serious energy in the ocean. Will probably peak up your way overnight. With apologies if you’re into 8-10’ sets.

But it still didn’t look like proper ground swell. ????

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 5:33am

As lined up and as strong as you see here in Sydney Batfink, maybe outer reefs broke up the swell lines a bit? All other locations are showing classic groundswell lines as well.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 11:12am

Late arvo I sat on a grassy south coast headland and watched regimented lines approach land in a way that only ground swell - deep ground swell - can.

Pops's picture
Pops's picture
Pops commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 12:22pm

Definitely proper groundswell north NB yesterday. Oily smooth conditions in the morning, and still distinct lines in the evening with the NEer. Same this morning.

He who hesitates is lost

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 5:53am

what was the local sea state like BF.

you could barely make out the lines Wed in amongst the SE gurgle.

yesterday lined up more but it definitely didn't have that classic groundswell look to it.

nick.minor's picture
nick.minor's picture
nick.minor commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 7:57am

Sunny coast on the cook this morning

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 9:49am

Pumping Tweed this morning, strong 4-5ft sets for the most part, then twenty minutes of solid 6ft bombs. Perfectly clean and straight, beautiful lines. No wind. Variable sweep at times - was dead still for periods, then occasionally started moving (probably with infragravity waves).

scrotina's picture
scrotina's picture
scrotina commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 12:01pm

any beachie banks holding it?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 12:11pm

Beachies looked OK actually, though plenty of sets to wear on the head.

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 7:03pm

Hmmmm, not sure where you surfed this morning Ben but the reports I got from down your way was the actual waves were crap. Wind and swell playing ball but bank situation was woeful.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 7:13pm

thats what I heard too.

spoke to a few Tweed guys who had driven down here because there was nowhere to surf up there.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 7:17pm

No need for me to clarify my quality session any further then, is there!

ringmaster's picture
ringmaster's picture
ringmaster commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 7:43pm

Don't let the nay sayers dampen your vibe Benny. As long as you had a good surf that's all that matters!

Had to be better than the months of persistent SHIT we've been copping down here on the Vicco 'surf' coast.

juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre's picture
juegasiempre commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 11:09am

Sucked on the mid GC this morning. 2ft clean long period closeout sets every minute or 2 with at least 3 surfers on each closeout. If you were the rightmost person on the party wave you could get a turn in.

When there's no wind and the waves aren't bigger than 2ft and it's an easy paddle out. That shit is like crack cocaine mixed with meth to all the mal/SUP riders.
It was much more fun yesterday IMO. Better than a kick in the nuts I guess.

EDIT: End on a positive, kinda. The long period reminded me of being in the Americas surfing really nice beachies where you could pick your bank and have a great surf. The experience wasn't the same as the waves, swell, banks and crowd was way way worse, but regardless, it's still a joy to feel that long period energy.

tomrnoir's picture
tomrnoir's picture
tomrnoir commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 12:04pm

Head-high & offshore on the Sunny where I surfed. Wobbly and a little sectiony, though. Solid crew out, with a lineup dominated by back-paddling grommets. Had some fun waves, but it was one of thooooose surfs, y'know?

Stoked for the Tweed folk on here, sounds like it was a magical morning down there.

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 12:38pm

Back paddling ?

Are you from the United States of Seppo ?

tomrnoir's picture
tomrnoir's picture
tomrnoir commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 12:49pm

Nah. Queue cutting & snaking, then

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 1:53pm

No dramas . Just curious.

stevehamilton_'s picture
stevehamilton_'s picture
stevehamilton_ commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 12:29pm

tweed was clean, powerful but very straight this morn. checked multiple spots between pottsville and fingal, all breaking very similarly. outer bank cracking every 20 mins or so on a bigger set with most waves unloading heavily on the inside sand. some good corners though if you were persistent

adsi's picture
adsi's picture
adsi commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 12:41pm

Crap pretty much everywhere between ballina and Byron this morn, between me and a mate we checked most of the coast

Booka78's picture
Booka78's picture
Booka78 commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 1:01pm

TOS was 4ft clean but with a weird lump in it, not as good as conditions would have suggested, crowded but still fun, 5/10 fair rating.

seaguts's picture
seaguts's picture
seaguts commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 1:59pm

Let’s leave the surf reports to the experts . Loose lips sink ships .

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 7:01pm

Hey Ben are your model outputs updating as they haven't changed all day?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 7:09pm

Not sure, I'll take a look. Next FC notes should be up in 30-40 min.

ocean-mocean's picture
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ocean-mocean commented Friday, 22 Jan 2021 at 9:46pm

Lunchtime yesty, Central coast
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