Small weekend of waves, then a complex plan moving forward

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 30th July)

SE Qld Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Tiny weekend ahead, maybe some small S'ly swells at exposed northern ends early Sat
  • Small flukey SE swell possible Mon
  • Small E'ly swell Tues, showing best Wed as winds swing offshore
  • Building S'ly swell Thurs PM with light winds, easing Fri, best suited to S swell magnets

Northern NSW Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Small flush of S'ly swell early Sat, easing during the day, light winds early
  • Otherwise small all weekend with freshening N/NW winds
  • Small flukey SE swell possible Mon, mainly in the north
  • Small E'ly swell Tues, showing best Wed as winds swing offshore
  • Strong building S'ly swell Thurs with light winds, easing Fri


Thursday offered small leftovers with winds out of the northern quadrant. A new S’ly swell today has built into the 3ft range at Northern NSW’s south facing beaches today, though with a staggered trend as several pulses pushed across the coast. The first produced 2ft sets at D’Bah early morning but size then eased through the afternoon. Tiny surf was reported elsewhere in SE Qld. Another pulse of S’ly swell is now pushing across the region. Morning offshore winds have swung to a moderate afternoon sea breeze across most coasts. 

D'Bah early Friday

Coffs still showing some reasonable S'ly swell this arvo

This weekend (Aug 1 - 2)

Trailing S’ly swell early Saturday is about the best we’ve got in store for the weekend.

Today’s S’ly swell is slowly drying up across Southern NSW and the same trend is expected across Northern NSW on Saturday. If we’re lucky, south facing beaches south of Byron will pick up a few stray 2-3ft sets early on, but expect smaller surf elsewhere, and a downwards trend through the day.

North of the border, most beaches won’t pick up this south swell very well, just a few rare early 1-2ft sets at a handful of exposed northern ends. 

A small E’ly swell will filter in over the weekend from a distant tropical depression way out near Tahiti last weekend, but no major size is expected, perhaps the odd 1-2ft set if we’re lucky at the open beaches (more likely Sunday than Saturday), and extremely long breaks between sets. It’s not worth working around.

Freshening N/NW winds are expected both days, which is cross-offshore for many open beaches but your best options will be inside sheltered northern corners. We should see a window of light winds early Saturday. 

Next week (Aug 3 onwards)

Lots of small but interesting sources on the cards for next week.

First off: an unusual spread of SE swell from a poorly aligned Tasman Low (see below), developing in the wake of the current front off the NW tip of New Zealand. This development is stalling its eastward track, and the tail of the resulting S/SW fetch extending south to almost Tasmanian latitudes may very well help to compensate for its poor orientation within our swell window.

So although the fetch is aimed directly towards Fiji, we should see a small spread of SE swell back into northern regions, with decreasing size/energy south from Ballina (where we may pick up inconsistent 2ft+ sets at the swell magnets on Monday). Please bear in mind this is a low confidence swell event so keep your expectations pegged appropriately low.

Theoretically, being further north, SE Qld is marginally better positioned for this fetch - all except for the fact that the coastline is angled back N/NW north from Byron, which further downgrades the size potential (away from exposed northern ends). So, if we’re lucky we’ll see inconsistent 2ft+ sets at some of the more reliable swell magnets, but overall expect much smaller surf.

The other fly in the ointment is a possible shallow S'ly change that may deteriorate conditions through Monday. Current guidance suggests it'll mainly affected the Mid North Coast in the morning (with an early window of offshores in the Far North and SE Qld) but if there's any update to this over the weekend I'll add into the comments below.

As for other sources: a vigorous frontal passage across Tasmania on Sunday doesn’t have a lot going for it for our surf potential. It’ll be quite zonal in orientation (west-east aligned), travelling rather quickly, and with very little southerly component to the core fetch exiting eastern Bass Strait. We may see some slow 1ft, perhaps 1-2ft sets at south facing beaches later Monday (Mid North Coast) and Tuesday (remaining Northern NSW coasts) but I don’t think there’ll be much in it.

We do however have some small east swell on the way from Tuesday onwards. 

A broad tropical low out near Tahiti this week (responsible for a tiny pulse of energy this weekend) is expected to provide a peak in long range, inconsistent E’ly swell around Tuesday or Wednesday.

Additionally, a large multi-centered low developing north of New Zealand today is generating a thin though strong E’ly fetch on its southern flank (see below). The broader system is tracking unfavourably eastwards, though it has slowed in the latest model runs which has improved its chances for swell generation - I wasn’t very keen on Wednesday but now I’m taking a little more notice. 

As such, I’m expecting a minor increase in E’ly swell on Tuesday 1-2ft, building to 2-3ft Wednesday and probably Thursday. Locations south from about Yamba are likely to see a little less size than those further north, as most of the fetch will develop just inside the swell shadow of New Zealand, but the models are suggesting swell periods could push into the 12 second range (Thursday) and this could nudge wave heights a little higher than my expectations. 

Conditions should be OK with freshening N/NW tending NW winds Tuesday, swinging W/SW on Wednesday - which is obviously your best time to book in a surf at the wide open beaches. Expect very long breaks between sets.

Light winds are then expected for the rest of the week, along with a couple of southerly swells. 

The first will originate from a front pushing across south-eastern Australia overnight Tuesday into Wednesday - it’ll be detached from the polar flow, so the bulk of our south swell will largely remain inactive. However W’ly gales exiting eastern Bass Strait should build a small S’ly swell arriving overnight Wednesday in Northern NSW, that’ll be rapidly overtaken by a second, stronger S’ly swell from a developing Tasman Low at the tail end of the front (see below).

I have a feeling future model updates will whisk this off to the east a little more quickly than we want, but right now Thursday’s on track for 4-5ft+ sets at south facing beaches south of Byron, with smaller surf elsewhere (note: there’ll be a delay on the arrival of this swell in the Far North and SE Qld, to the afternoon). 

SE Qld won’t enjoy this swell direction, so it’s likely most open beaches and outer points will struggle with 1-2ft waves, though exposed northern ends and south swell magnets could see 3ft sets if we’re lucky.  

The longer term model guidance isn’t very promising in the surf size estimation department, but there’s a suggestion for a series of powerful Southern Ocean lows well below Tasmania which should - at a minimum - set up a decent S’ly groundswell for Northern NSW during the second half of next weekend and the start of next week.

More on this in Monday’s notes. Have a great weekend!


burleigh's picture
burleigh's picture
burleigh Friday, 30 Jul 2021 at 7:45pm

Golf. Let's play golf.

nextswell's picture
nextswell's picture
nextswell Saturday, 31 Jul 2021 at 8:07am

New swell Thursday, afternoon light winds and an early finish for Coffs cup. Sometimes things just align.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Saturday, 31 Jul 2021 at 9:29am

that turned crappy quickly.
few small peelers with an offshore wind.
by the time I'd suited up and walked down, wind swung and blew hard northerly.

Redmond Clement's picture
Redmond Clement's picture
Redmond Clement Saturday, 31 Jul 2021 at 5:04pm

Definitely East swell coming through this arvo. A bit of energy and fairly consistent.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Sunday, 1 Aug 2021 at 10:03am

Jasmine blossoms out everywhere, same with the peach trees.
N'ly winds and gurgle galore.

Looks like Spring and feels like Spring.

If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck........

ASCAT pass on that North Island complex low doesn't look so bad though.

82shoes's picture
82shoes's picture
82shoes Sunday, 1 Aug 2021 at 12:47pm

Cheech and Chong comes to mind ...
" Looks like dogs turd, smells like dogs turd, lucky ..........."

donweather's picture
donweather's picture
donweather Sunday, 1 Aug 2021 at 12:25pm

Yes imagine what Spring is going to be like if this is still only 2/3rds way through winter!!!

Blowin's picture
Blowin's picture
Blowin Sunday, 1 Aug 2021 at 12:50pm

Human seasonal indicators are signalling Spring : Town beach is filled with shrieking, zinc covered kids, joyously riding wind slop on boogie boards.

Thought I’d officiate the transition with the traditional chocolate Paddle Pop which heralds our arrival into the warmer months. Paddle Pop Lion being the Southern Hemisphere equivalent of Puxatawny Phil. It’s not even my favourite iced treat but some customs must be upheld.

Meant to be 27 degrees here and it feels pretty damn warm when as soon as you step out of the NorEaster. Surf is green and woeful. Water has the spring chill- maybe 19 degrees.

Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 4:00pm

Fark. I haven't surfed a short board for three weeks.

Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 4:01pm

and the 10km radius gives me zero south swell magnets.. back to trail running (thank fuck I have heaps of those within 10kms)...