Persistent swells from the south

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 1st August)

Best Days: Later Saturday: solid but windy S'ly swell. Early Sunday: brief window of good winds with an easing S'ly swell. Tues/Wed: building long period S'ly groundswell with good winds. 

Recap: A small south swell pushed through on Thursday, coming in just under expectations (wave heights did nudge the 2ft mark in Sydney as forecast but there simply just weren’t very many sets). The Hunter did a lot better with more consistent surf in the 2ft+ range, and light offshore winds. Today has seen a tiny NE windswell and an early northerly tending fresh westerly breeze. 

This weekend (Aug 2-3)

The models have slightly wound back the strength of the front pushing through in the lower Tasman tonight, so as a result the weekend surf forecast has correspondingly been pulled back a touch.

The overall trend remains generally the same though, upwards all day Saturday ahead of an overnight peak and then a downwards trend all day Sunday. In fact the peak of this swell will probably occur earlier - late Saturday afternoon or early evening - so Sunday morning’s not looking quite as punchy as was expected in previous notes.

Size wise, south facing beaches should reach a bumpy 4-5ft by late Saturday as early W/SW winds quickly swing S/SW and gather strength into the afternoon. Wave heights will however be a lot smaller at beaches with less southerly exposure. 

Sunday morning still looks to be the pick of the weekend with winds veering W/SW for a few hours early morning, however south facing beaches are likely to be down to 3-4ft by this time, with smaller surf elsewhere. The Hunter may see slightly bigger waves but in general the trend will be downwards. Winds are also expected to swing more to the south during the day, so get in early for the best waves.

Next week (Aug 4-8)

A small reinforcing pulse of southerly groundswell is expected to maintain 2-3ft surf at south facing beaches through Monday. We’ll also see the beginnings of a small (<2ft) but persistent E/NE swell, originating from a developing trade wind flow north of New Zealand at the moment. This swell will hang around for much of the week week but will probably sit beneath more prominent swell trains out of the southern quadrant.

Early next week, a strong frontal passage - much broader in latitudinal coverage than recent activity - will occupy the waters south of Tasmania. This is expected to generate long period southerly swell that’s due to reach the South Coast early Tuesday morning and the Sydney/Hunter region in the afternoon. A second pulse from the same storm track is then modelled to fill in around Wednesday, probably holding through Thursday

At the moment it’s hard to have a lot of confidence in the likely size range because of the predominant westerly direction in the storm track, which will significantly reduce wave heights along the East Coast. As a result the swell models aren’t resolving the size at the coast very well (although it is showing the strong swell periods), so at the present time I think we’ll probably see wave heights ebbing and flowing somewhere in the 2-3ft+ range at south facing beaches in Sydney from Tues thru’ Thurs. The Hunter should see another foot or more on top of this. However beaches not open to the south will be relying on the small, inconsistent E/NE swell to partner up with the south swell to produce something worthwhile. 

Fortunately conditions should be generally good through this period under the influence of a ridge of high pressure.

Long term (Aug 9 onwards)

More strong fronts are expected through our southern swell window mid-late next week, which will keep us flush with south swell through the following weekend and beyond. More on this in Monday’s update.