XL stormsurf to build later this week with some wild and woolly days ahead

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Mon 9th May)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • E swell hangs into Tues as winds start to freshen
  • Short range E swell building in Wed under fresh E to E/SE winds
  • Large and unruly surf from Thurs-Sat as surface low drifts down QLD coast to be off Fraser Is Thurs/Fri
  • XL surf Sat with N'ly winds, surf easing (though still large Sun) with light winds
  • Surf easing quickly Mon, with small S swell Tues/Wed


Plenty of super fun surf over the weekend with generally SW to S winds. Sat saw the smallest surf with E swell in the 2 to occasional 3ft range and light winds. E swell picked up a touch Sunday into the 3ft range, with a few bigger sets on offer, and light SW-S winds that increased through the a’noon. Today has seen some shorter range SE swell join the mix, along with traces of S swell. Those different swell trains and increasing SSE to SE winds have made conditions and surf a bit more disorganised today. 

Plenty of action ahead, some of it gnarly. 

Still clean enough on the open side under threatening skies

This week (May 9-13)

Fairly wild week ahead, with the event  now more QLD focused compared to Fridays notes. A large high is now moving into the Tasman Sea and strengthening- that will be the main synoptic feature this week- setting up a deep ridge and a strong E’ly pattern through the Tasman Sea. Further north an interior upper trough and potential coastal trough/surface low will combine to drive an intense E/NE to NE wind flow through the Coral and Northern Tasman Sea, generating a large stormsurf by Fri. It hasn’t quite got the horsepower of the 2016 Black Nor-easter swell but we are still in for a few days of stiff onshore winds and solid E/NE swell before a clearing change brings more favourable winds early next week.

In the short run more E swell pads out Tues, with S swell rapidly dropping out of the mix. Conditions start to deteriorate after a brief window of light winds inshore early as the ridge sets up and SE’ly winds begin to kick in. There will reach mod/fresh strength through the a’noon, so get in early if you’ve got a go out in mind. Surf heights should remain relatively subdued on Tues, around 3ft through the morning, probably tickling up a notch through the late a’noon but with poorer quality as shorter period swell trains start to fill in.

 Surf will build through the day on Wed as the fetch thickens up across the Southern and Central Coral Sea, aimed up straight at QLD. That will see surf build from 3-4ft up into the 4-6ft range during the a’noon, although quality will be constrained by freshening E/SE winds which will tend more E’ly in NENSW. Needless to say, Protected Points only for Wed. Expect bigger surf in QLD compared to NENSW, with size dipping south of Yamba.

Thursday is where we see surf really kick in. The fetch matures, covering most of the Northern Tasman and Coral Sea with E’ly winds. That will see strong E/NE swell build through the day across the f/cast region. Expect size to build from 6ft+ up into the 8ft range during the day. It’s going to be far from good with fresh/strong E/NE winds. More of a raggedy, juiced up windswell type of day that is likely to do damage to sandbanks. There will be some traces of long period S swell from storm force polar low passing under Australia but this won’t amount to much more than a few 2-3ft sets and to be honest, it’s not enough of a signal to stand out from the noise apart from a few rare locations.

If Thurs is a lay day then Friday repeats the dose. It looks like a hectic day. A surface low, likely a hybrid variety is expected to drift south from the CQ Coast through Thurs to be off Fraser Island Fri morning. A broad fetch of E/NE gales will be aimed directly at SEQLD, suggesting a day of large to very large storm surf. How big?

Previous hybrid lows in similar positions have produced surf in the 12ft+ range, with sets to 15ft on the cards during the a’noon. It’s likely to be academic due to fresh/strong E to E/NE winds which will render everywhere blown out. 

This weekend (May 14-15)

There’ll be heaps of surf this weekend from the strong E/NE swell although we are expecting an easing trend as the surface low off the Fraser Coast concentrates the fetch more into the sub-tropics, before it fizzles out at that latitude. 

Surf quality will hinge on the timing of an approaching trough, which brings a clearing offshore flow. 

Saturday sees the biggest waves with XL 12ft surf from the NE, easing a notch during the day. Winds have N’ly component- a leftover flow from the dissipated surface low- but they will ease during the day. Will there be anywhere surfable? Perhaps a handful of spots or less but best keep expectations low for Sat. 

Winds look flukier on Sunday. A lingering trough line is likely to lead to light winds which could tend anywhere from light W to N, possibly ending up as light NE sea breezes. Surf will be definitely on the way down but there will be plenty of solid energy in the water. Likely sets to 6-8ft, early, with a steeper easing trend on show during the a’noon. It still might be a challenge to find a surfable wave depending on the state of the sandbars.

Next week (May 16 onwards)

A more traditional May week ahead next week with some South swell on the cards. A frontal progression with complex low centres pushes into the Tasman Mon to start the week. That should see smaller residual surf Mon in the 4ft range with offshore winds and a potential late kick in S swell. 

Stronger S swell is on the cards for Tues with size in the 2-3ft range, bigger 3-4ft at NENSW S facing beaches. Winds look light S to SE as high-pressure drifts over Central NSW, although we may see stronger onshore winds kick in during the day.

Looks like high pressure in the Tasman next week leads to more settled conditions and a stanza of smaller surf through mid next week.

Latest model runs now show a sub-tropical low NE of the North Island poking up into the SEQLD swell window, although the fetch isn't perfectly aligned. That offers potential for SE/ESE groundswell possibly next weekend.

More frontal activity strongly suggests the S swell window will remain active later next week, although nothing major is indicated at this stage.

We’ll also keep eyes on a small, elongated trough through the Northern Tasman Sea that could supply some small ESE swell later next week.

Check Wed for the latest update. 


simsurf's picture
simsurf's picture
simsurf Monday, 9 May 2022 at 3:55pm

In summary, we are shafted until next Monday.

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout Monday, 9 May 2022 at 4:49pm

Just as the sand has started to settle. Huey has a sick sense of humour this year.

Benda's picture
Benda's picture
Benda Monday, 9 May 2022 at 6:46pm

It's been pumping for months,happy for a few days rest

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Monday, 9 May 2022 at 7:19pm

Flying to Sunshine Coast Sunday for a week.
But have the option of coming up mid-week instead.
Worth it for some point action? Sounds like probably not due to winds?

Tristan Goose's picture
Tristan Goose's picture
Tristan Goose Tuesday, 10 May 2022 at 9:02am

Hard to say, if those northerlies on Sunday and Monday become light or swing south it might be on. But the forecast seems to be changing constantly now

Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic Monday, 9 May 2022 at 8:03pm

If anywhere Noosa will handle it

Izzyduff's picture
Izzyduff's picture
Izzyduff Tuesday, 10 May 2022 at 4:48am

How good was the 2016 black nor-easter

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Tuesday, 10 May 2022 at 10:21am

Not a fan.

It took 6-8 months after Black Nor-easter before we had anything like half decent banks.

Months and months of completely gutted points after it.

dawnperiscope's picture
dawnperiscope's picture
dawnperiscope Tuesday, 10 May 2022 at 11:06am

Nasty. Looks like Friday the 13th could be a dark day for the Byron foreshore.

DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet's picture
DudeSweetDudeSweet Tuesday, 10 May 2022 at 11:33am

My house was oceanfront a hundred years ago. Bring on the Black Nor Easter!

Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic's picture
Plasticspastic Tuesday, 10 May 2022 at 1:15pm

agree with FR about the the Black Nor Easter. Was a bit like current politics, big storm with short term gain, then an absolute shit show after, with everyone paying for it months afterwards.
QLD had fantastic big beachies for about a week after then slush for 6 months...

adsi's picture
adsi's picture
adsi Tuesday, 10 May 2022 at 3:14pm

Yeh, been waiting all year for Ballina/Byron beachies to turn on with autumn and winter peaky swells, but the banks are shit most places. Sounds like they're about to get worse :(

scrotina's picture
scrotina's picture
scrotina Tuesday, 10 May 2022 at 10:25pm

while the surf has been good, it will be a shame to see the lovely banks on the points ruined just as all the pros leave. and autumn beachies look like being shit too.

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 3:41pm

Genuine question, what qualifies as 1/10, or at least below 3/10? Obviously it's absolute trash today but there's still whitewater slop you could 'surf'/drown in. Would 1/10 be those rare, beautiful, dead flat winter days where it's barely lapping at the shore? Do general weather niceties come into it or just pure ability to be propelled by water?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 3:50pm

Here's the Surf Rating Definition at the bottom of the upload page, for reporters (though it's below everything so they've all probably forgotten it exists).

And of course, personal interpretation will be different from surfer to surfer. I can only imagine RCJ's daily surf report for Qld (!!) being "1/10, too small" right through the summer/autumn period.

Anyway, here 'tis:

1/10 Unsurfable - flat and/or unrideable conditions
2/10 Very poor - low quality surf with poor conditions
3/10 Below average surf - some surfable waves but generally low quality
4/10 Average surf - a mix of surfable waves with variable quality
5/10 Above average surf - reasonable percentage of surfable waves, but with variable conditions at times
6/10 Good surf - plenty of surfable waves with reasonable conditions
7/10 Very good surf - plenty of surfable waves with good conditions
8/10 Great surf - high percentage of quality waves with great conditions
9/10 Excellent surf - high percentage of quality waves with excellent conditions
10/10 Epic surf - as good as it gets

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout Wednesday, 11 May 2022 at 4:01pm

Fantastic, appreciate it Ben. What you've listed could be a great addition to the daily report somehow, not sure how you'd incorporate it in the most effective manner, link to a ratings info page, table, etc. but that's great information.