Bleak winter outlook for most coasts, but there's a few windows

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 26th July)

SE Qld Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Tiny surf all week, nothing to get excited about
  • Minor E'ly swell this weekend, probably a little wind affected 
  • Small E'ly swells next week with better conditions for the open beaches

Northern NSW Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Small S'ly swells Tues AM, easing during the day
  • Small surf with gusty NW tending SW winds Wed/Thurs
  • Reasonable flush of S'ly swell Fri
  • Nothing much likely this weekend
  • Nothing amazing for the long term, small E'ly swells next week tho'


Saturday’s N’ly windswell produced a slightly broader spread of peaky 2ft+ surf than forecast, with a few regions across SE Qld and Far Northern NSW picking up nice waves, clean under the NW breeze. Elsewhere, S’ly swells maintained 2-3ft surf across Northern NSW’s south swell magnets on Saturday, easing to 2ft Sunday, and then rebuilding to 3ft today (see image below from Coffs Harbour). Today's pulse originated from an unusual fetch of W/SW gales extending from Southern NSW on Sunday. However beaches not open to the south have been much smaller for the last few days, and very little of this south swell has made it north of the border. Conditions have been clean throughout with offshore winds.

Fun S'ly swells in Coffs today

This week (July 27 - 30)

Look, there’s really not much to get excited about this week.

A small S’ly swell present across Southern NSW today should provide slow 2-3ft sets to south swell magnets south of Byron on Tuesday, but it’ll gradually ease through into the afternoon and we’ll see the same tiny conditions elsewhere (especially SE Qld) as per the last few days. 

Conditions will be nice and clean with early offshore winds, ahead of an afternoon northerly. 

The Southern Ocean storm track remains very strong, but it’s riding quite north in latitude, across the southern states. Being detatched from polar latitudes, this means each amplifying node of the Long Wave Trough has a shorter upstream fetch length within our south swell window when it pushes east of Tasmania.

In fact, pre-frontal N/NW winds off Northern NSW late Tuesday and into Wednesday may generate some minor N’ly swell for a handful of north-facing swell magnets later Wednesday and Thursday. But this is a very unusual, flukey swell source and is not worth worrying too much about. 

As such, expect tiny conditions Wednesday and Thursday with small residual energy from the east padding out open beaches with stray one foot sets. Winds will veer south-west on Thursday behind the front and south facing beaches may pick up an increase in short range S’ly swell into the afternoon, but it’s not worth worrying about.

The best swell of the forecast period is due Friday, though unfortunately only for south facing beaches south of the border.

This swell will be generated by post-frontal W/SW gales exiting eastern Bass Strait from early Thursday morning onwards. This energy should push across Northern NSW on Friday morning, offering occasional 3ft sets to south swell magnets south of Byron, but much smaller surf elsewhere due to the direction. Winds are looking to be light so conditions should be clean.

I don’t think we’ll see much size in SE Qld from this source, only a handful of reliable south swell magnets and exposed northern ends may pick up small waves if we’re lucky. However there should be a small persistent though small E’ly swell at the open beaches for the grommets. 

This weekend (Aug 1 - 2)

Model guidance is split on how the Thurs/Fri frontal passage will evolve across the Tasman Sea. 

It’s expected to form a reasonable Tasman Low on Friday, aimed away from our region, however the low may stall in its eastwards track which - along with the southerly extent of its fetch reaching south to almost Tasmanian latitudes - may just sit inside our swell window enough to allow for a minor spread of SE swell back into the coast.

There’s one other swell source due this weekend and next week too: a stationary tropical depression way out near Tahiti over the last few days (see below) is generating some minor E’ly swell that should stop the swell magnets from becoming completely flat. 

But I gotta say, even by my standards that’s one heck of a positive interpretation on what’s otherwise a synoptic chart suggesting nothing more than a weekend of near-flat conditions.

Winds will be up from the N/NW all weekend too, so there’ll probably be small N’ly windswell at the exposed spots. Clean options will be limited to sheltered northern corners. 

Not great, unfortunately.

Next week (Aug 3 onwards)

There’s a wide range of interesting model output for next week, throwing up a couple of potential swell scenarios. 

But in all honesty, I can’t see much more than a continuation of this strong Southern Ocean frontal cycle across the southern states, resulting in yet more flukey south swells for our region. 

The long range E’ly swell (mentioned above for the weekend) should also continue to trickle along for most of next week, but the large travel distance and the partial shadowing from New Zealand will probably cap wave heights at an inconsistent 2ft+ on various days, with extremely long breaks between sets. Let’s wait and see if we can find a nice window of clean conditions for the open beaches. 

More on this in Wednesday’s update.


Rockethut's picture
Rockethut's picture
Rockethut Monday, 26 Jul 2021 at 7:12pm

A good time to live in Ballina.
Otherwise pleeease give me access to a God dam wavepool.

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather Monday, 26 Jul 2021 at 7:19pm

What's with the weekly barrage of fcking Nly winds. It's winter FFS!!

Rockethut's picture
Rockethut's picture
Rockethut Monday, 26 Jul 2021 at 7:56pm

"Bleak winter outlook for most coasts, but there's a few windows"

You must mean like a few windows to jump out of....

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Monday, 26 Jul 2021 at 8:37pm

I won't show you a photo of what I surfed solo today Rocket.
you'd explode.

Rockethut's picture
Rockethut's picture
Rockethut Tuesday, 27 Jul 2021 at 6:59am

Freeride which coast you talking about?
NNSW? Mid north? Bali?

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout Tuesday, 27 Jul 2021 at 7:31am

Lotta straight but lotta fun on the right bank this morning.

Troppo's picture
Troppo's picture
Troppo Tuesday, 27 Jul 2021 at 8:22am

Nice new cameras for the Maroochy stretch.
Thank you Ben!

tomrnoir's picture
tomrnoir's picture
tomrnoir Tuesday, 27 Jul 2021 at 12:00pm

Effin' sweet this morning, buzzing.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Tuesday, 27 Jul 2021 at 12:19pm

South swell hanging in there across the Coffs stretch.

richard187's picture
richard187's picture
richard187 Tuesday, 27 Jul 2021 at 3:10pm

I don't think I've seen such a bleak extended forecast in my life.

vbaaccess's picture
vbaaccess's picture
vbaaccess Wednesday, 28 Jul 2021 at 9:01pm

While there are strong westerlies in the southern states the run of strong N/NW winds on the Gold Coast the current weak small surf will continue. Spring weather pattern has come early. I use this time of the year to do paddle fitness on my kneeboard from Twin Towns Services Club to D-BAH and back. It keeps me surf fit when we finally get waves . Here's hoping we have a wet spring which is good for spring surf. Long dry spring and howling northerlies equals no waves.