Tricky winds as troughs linger with some small swell sources to work with

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Steve Shearer (freeride76)

South-east Queensland and Northern NSW Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Mon 30th Jan)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Small E swell and light winds Mon, with a small kick in size late Mon into Tues
  • Tricky winds as a trough stalls near Coffs Tues- S’ly winds up to Coffs, N’lies from there N’wards
  • Variable winds Wed with N’lies establishing Thurs/Fri
  • Small kick in E swell Thurs, easing Fri
  • NE windswell building Fri, holding Sat, easing Sun
  • Small amounts of E’ly tradewind swell over the weekend
  • More small E swell next week with SE winds becoming established
  • Possible low off Fraser next week, stay tuned for revisions
  • Still tracking low pressure developments in South Pacific- nothing major expected


Lots of fun to be had over the weekend as a mix of small E swell and long period SSE-SE swell kicked in Sat with mostly light winds. Sets built through the day with  a peak in energy observed in the a’noon at most spots in NENSW as sets to 3ft made landfall. SEQLD had some smaller 2-3ft sets. Sunday had a light onshore NE flow and an easing signal of SSE-SE groundswell. Sets to 2-3ft became more inconsistent through the day with a bit of NE windswell through the a’noon. Only small waves on offer this morning with surf topping out around 2ft at swell magnets under a light N flow, expected to tend NE’ly and freshen. Tricky week ahead with a few swell sources and a few  wind changes. Read on for details. 

Fun beachies with light morning winds on the weekend

This week (Jan30- Feb3)

We’ve got a troughy, unstable synoptic pattern on our hands with monsoonal clouds and moisture extending from the Top End dawn to a trough off the NSW South Coast. Weak pressure gradients look to be with us for a few days as the trough lingers about the NSW Central/Mid North Coast, possibly forming a small low. Small pulses of E swell generated by fetches near the North Island supply some fun sized surf if you can work around the shifty winds expected this week.

In the short run and a compact fetch of near gales out of Cook Strait through Sun brings a fun sized pulse of E/SE swell through Tues, with size expected in the 2-3ft range. You’ll need shelter from the N’ly winds expected north of the border to around Yamba. Further South a trough brings a SW-S change through the morning which is expected to stall between Coffs and Yamba.

SW-S winds are expected Wed morning up to about Ballina- with variable winds likely up to the Border and light NW-N winds in SEQLD,  before likely tending light SE-NE in the a’noon but again there’s a fair amount of uncertainty depending on where the small low and attached trough end up sitting. Expect E/SE swell to have eased to 2ft. We may see a small amount of local E swell generated as winds feed into the low. Wave models aren’t resolving this well but we’ll keep tabs on the possibility of some peaky 2-3ft surf building through the a’noon from this source.

The trough/low moves away Thurs with light winds expected through the morning before a weak, high pressure ridge and inland trough see variable to N’ly winds establish. We should see another small kick in E swell through the day from a fetch which tracked down from the South Pacific past the North Island into the Tasman Sea on Mon/Tues (see below). That should see a slight kick into the 2-3ft range through the day.

Winds shift again Fri, as a large mid-latitude low approaches from the W and becomes slow moving close to Tasmania. This will drive a winter-style W’ly flow across temperate NSW tending NW-N in the sub-tropics. We should see small, fun beachbreaks with a combination of small swells. Easing E swells and some NE swell from winds feeding into the lingering trough system, with size around 2-3ft+. 

It’s a very fluid, unstable synoptic pattern so keep tabs on revisions through the week, especially for wind changes.

This weekend (Feb 4-5)

Tricky wind outlook for Sat as another trough brings a S’ly change up the coast, possibly reaching the border through the morning. We’ll be relying on a  blend of E and NE swells Sat to maintain surf in the 2-3ft range with E’ly tradewind swell boosting a notch in the a’noon. 

Size looks to hold  into Sun with surf in the 3ft range from similar sources. Winds should be more stable S-SE through the day with a few peelers on the Points likely. We may see some short range SE swell build during the a’noon, depending on how proximate winds play out.

Next week (Feb6 onwards)

Small S swell from the remnants of the low moving into the Tasman is expected Mon. The fetch weakens as it moves into the Tasman so no real size is expected. 2-3ft at S facing beaches, much smaller elsewhere. 

A high pressure ridge brings SSE-SE winds through Mon and Tues, likely extending further into the mid/late week. E swell from South Pacific tradewind sources looks to hold surf in the 2-3ft range Mon, potentially bumping up a notch Tues/Wed.

Models are divergent from mid next week with the European model suggesting a potential trough of low pressure off the Fraser Coast in QLD and an inland trough through NSW seeing increased E’ly to E/NE’ly winds concentrated in those areas. That would see a strong increase in local swells and bad weather/onshore winds.

GFS suggests a more modest high pressure ridge and SE flow concentrated in the sub-tropics.

Low pressure in the South Pacific early next week looks to track SE after it forms near Fiji, suggesting only small amounts of E swell, if anything , filtering down to temperate NSW. Sub-tropical areas may fare better towards the end of next week but it’s too early to suggest any concrete sizes. 

Check back Wed and we’ll have more clarity as to how this unstable synoptic situation is resolving.