Interlude of S swell pulses before another round of La Niña mediated E swell

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Mon 16th May)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Small leftover E swell Tues and Wed with clean mornings under light winds
  • Increase in S swell Thurs, favouring NENSW with tricky SSE winds
  • Stronger S swell Fri, peaking Sat, with mod SE winds
  • Mix of S and building E to E/SE short range swell Sun
  • Building E swell from Mon, favouring Points, possibly sizey by mid/late next week.
  • Entrenched La Nina pattern remains, stay tuned for updates


Storm surf was the order of the weekend, albeit a notch under f/cast expectations. Saturday saw large stormy surf in the 6-8ft range with just enough S in the wind to open up protected Points, mostly Noosa. There was plenty of swell energy to get right into First Point. Sunday eased off quite a bit, especially on the North Coast, where size was in the 4-6ft range, but straight onshore E/NE winds across the entire region made the Ocean a mess. Not to mention more flood run-off from the river systems which did nothing for water quality. Today has been glassy with light winds, and much smaller surf in the 3-4ft range. Quality was very mixed depending on the state of the sand banks and poor water quality. All in all, it was a tough weekend to find a rideable wave.

Ugly, but surfable

This week (May 16-20)

A deep, slow moving polar low well to the south of the continent is driving a W’ly flow across most of temperate NSW, with sub-tropical areas still under the influence of lingering troughiness after the weekends low pressure fizzed out near Fraser Island. Fronts with embedded troughs are pushing into the Tasman with some small pulses of refracted S swell associated with them. 

Stronger fronts push up into the Tasman from later Wed, bringing a S'ly flow and bigger S swell as we head to the end of the week. That bigger S to SSE swell will come with S to SSE winds as a new dominant high ridges in from the south of the Bight.  More E swell and SE winds into the medium term as the high sets up another trade flow through the Coral Sea.

In the short run we’re looking at a couple of very small days as surf heights bottom out and offshore winds groom small swells. Expect light W winds through Tues before SSE winds kick in with small swells. Just a couple of foot or so at most beaches, but worth a squizz to see if you can find a small wave sand bank after the last storm swell pummelling.

Small surf again Wed with 1-2ft of leftover surf from the E, clean early before S/SE winds kick in with a bit more vigour as the new high pressure ridge starts to build. That will mess up surf through the a’noon and it’s doubtful there will be enough swell to get much more than a tiny log wave on the Points. 

We’ll see a steeper building trend in new S swell through the back end of the week, from a variety of swell producing fetches. Including gales out of Bass Strait , gales off the SE tip of Tasmania and a deeper, trailing fetch extending SW of Tasmania which tracks NE later Wed into Thurs (see below). There’ll be undersized lines from the S early with some 2ft sets at S facing beaches in NENSW but that swell will really kick around lunch-time through the a’noon in NENSW, mid a’noon across the border. Expect sets up into the 3ft at S exposed breaks through the a’noon, smaller 2-3ft at S facing beaches in SEQLD. The ridge will strengthen further in the wake of a strong front pushing into the lower Tasman, so we’ll see SSE to SE winds freshen during the day.

Plenty of S swell to end the working week but winds look a bit problematic. The deep SW fetch will see size up in the 3-4ft range at S exposed breaks in NENSW, smaller 2-3ft in SEQLD but the high pressure will maintain mod/fresh SSE to SE winds so it’s likely babyfood on the Points or raggedy options at semi-exposed beachies will be on the cards, in which case, best to have low expectations for Friday. A window of cleaner conditions early morning might be the best bet in NENSW. 

This weekend (May 21-22)

Plenty of wind and swell ahead this weekend, as the strong frontal activity through the Tasman maintains plenty of S’ly energy. Winds will be the issue though, as yet another large high sitting south-east of Tasmania (typically summer latitudes) maintains  a SE  pattern.

Let’s deal with winds first. 

We’re looking at mod/fresh SE winds Sat, a notch lighter Sun but more ESE’ly in direction. Typical of the La Niña winds we have had for months now. Favouring the Points and blowing out the beachies early morning.

Surf-wise there’ll be a strong mix of S swell trains in the water as multiple swell generating fetches operate on an already active sea state. 

S swell in the 14-16 second period band should see surf up in the 4-6ft range in NENSW with even S facing beaches in SEQLD seeing 3-4ft sets, although with the winds f/cast it’ll be hard to maximise size. A reinforcing pulse of more S/SE angled swell at similar size will provide plenty of energy through the later a’noon. That should be enough to get into sheltered corners out of the wind (somewhat), where you’ll find smaller but cleaner surf. ESE swell from the proximate high pressure ridge will supply some 2-3ft energy through the a’noon.

Those heights ease back through Sun from the S with early energy in the 4-5ft range dropping back through the day, likely in the 3ft range at S facing beaches by the a’noon. SE to ESE winds will be on offer so expect plenty of lump and bump at exposed breaks and much smaller surf at the Points, where E/SE short period swell will supply more 3ft sets, of low quality.

Next week (May 23 onwards)

A Large high dominates the Tasman next week. With plenty of short range E to E/SE swell filling in through Mon supplying surf in the 4ft range, biggest in SEQLD with SE winds favouring the Points.

Surf increases further through Tues, albeit another swell with Points Only written in black ink all over it.

Another classic La Niña set-up.

La Nina pattern continues unabated

Through mid to end of next week and swell will continue from the Eastern quadrant. GFS has a much stronger trade flow anchored by a trough/low in the Coral Sea which sees the fetch of E’ly winds in the Coral Sea start to extend southwards into the Northern Tasman . EC has a weaker E’ly flow, contracting E’wards into the South Pacific during next week.

We’ll see E’ly swell build later next week, stronger under the GFS scenario, weaker with the EC prognosis. 

Check back Wed and we’ll see how the end of next week is shaping up as far this next  round of E’ly swell goes. 

Seeya then.


NickT's picture
NickT's picture
NickT Monday, 16 May 2022 at 7:36pm

Relentless. I surfed this morning on a GC beach and it was pretty bloody good at around 10 am. Light NW wind and smooth wedges were coming through on a nice right bank. It seems as though that last big swell hasn't changed the banks much where I was, still that huge gutter on the inside making it a solid test to bust through and over the outer sandbank but every 100m there was a nice bank then a hole, then another bank.... all the way down the beach. I'm guessing we need a series of long-period south swells to push the sand in to fill in those gutters again, does that sound right or am I way off?

burleigh's picture
burleigh's picture
burleigh Monday, 16 May 2022 at 7:49pm

Unfortunately looks like the greenmount bank is all but gone.
A few nice high tide beach breaks around early

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Monday, 16 May 2022 at 7:50pm

Depends on which coastline you are on.

SDW's picture
SDW's picture
SDW Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 7:20am

Reckon there’s any chance the current predictions in the surf forecast for the 28th onward will hold? Notice the surf forecast often throws up what would be awesome conditions at the back end of the forecast.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 11:55am

I wouldn't be putting too much faith in anything that far out SDW.

21 degrees minimum overnight temps.

For the middle of May that is insane.

That warm, humid air mass over us, will not shift.

Solitude's picture
Solitude's picture
Solitude Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 12:11pm

How hot has it been at night.........going to be so strange when the next 'season' kicks in, what do we call that, Spring?
Was junky, small, low period, light onshore summer conditions this morning. With fairly warm water to boot.

One of the main reasons I surf is that inky-purple, dawn hue on textured, crisp autumnal beachies. One less year of that I'm thinking......

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 12:39pm

It could easily be Spring before this pattern shifts in any meaningful way.

wally's picture
wally's picture
wally Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 12:40pm

I was sitting on the front veranda last night in Brisbane at 6pm and I had sweat dripping onto the ipad, The humidity was 92%. I could not recall it ever being so steamy in May in Brisbane.

burleigh's picture
burleigh's picture
burleigh Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 12:44pm

Totally agree, the humidity last night was insane. I had the aircon on a timer, woke up in a ball of sweat at 2am and had to switch it back on.

I hardly even use the air con, especially not in the middle of May!

linez's picture
linez's picture
linez Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 2:39pm

Anyone else got mould in the house? We noticed it yesterday on the dining chairs, then had a closer look and it's on the lounges, cupboards..
Lived in our house for over 25yrs and never had it.
And yes, humid

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 2:55pm

Pulled a board out of the cover the other day, had been in there for 6 months or so.

The wax was covered in black mould!

I didn't know mould could grow on wax.

SDW's picture
SDW's picture
SDW Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 6:05pm

I watched with such disappointment as that monster cold front slipped to the south of Tas a couple days ago. If we weren’t in this current ridiculous pattern a front like that coming through and sweeping up as far as the NSW/QLD border would’ve been a really nice season opener.

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 8:12pm

Lots of mould talk up here too, crazy times, worst year ever. I'd take ten droughts over this pile of shit.

linez's picture
linez's picture
linez Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 10:40pm

Doesn't look like getting better anytime soon Sprout.

crg's picture
crg's picture
crg Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 9:13am

NZ is getting hit from every quarter the next 10 days...
West Coast this week then...
Back to back monster lows underneath South Island off to Tahiti then...
A sub tropical low from the North...