Mixed offerings for southern NSW

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 6th October)

Best DaysTuesday: small peaky NE swell, with a brief window of offshore winds through the middle of the day. 

Recap: Strong but ultimately underwhelming south swell over the weekend, with no major size difference between Saturday and Sunday (mainly 3-5ft south facing beaches, bigger in the Hunter). Although there were a few exceptions across the region, Saturday's expected large morning peak essentially fell well short of expectations, however Sunday dished up some nice waves with a better NW airflow and a lighter NE sea breeze in the afternoon. This morning delivered small clean waves with early offshores and NE sea breezes. 

This week (Oct 7-10)

Strengthening NE winds this afternoon and overnight should generate a short range NE windswell for exposed beaches on Tuesday. No major size is expected from this source (peaky 2ft+ waves at NE facing beaches) however there should be a good window of opportunity through the middle of the day as the overnight cross-onshore breeze tends light and variable at dawn then W/SW through mid-late morning as front crosses the coast. 

However, we are likely to see winds swung fresh S/SE mid-late afternoon, which will deteriorate conditions at exposed beaches - so be prepared to pounce once the W/SW airstream arrives as the window of opportunity may only be a few hours. Fortunately, this period will occur through the midday low tide which should produce the best waves of the day (the early morning will probably still have some wobble from overnight northerlies, and the high tide). Expect much smaller surf at south facing beaches, and also in the northern Hunter, both of which do not enjoy short range NE windswells, and will therefore be relying on leftover south swell.

On Wednesday, we’ll see a new short range south swell push into the coast, generated by the parent system to Tuesday’s southerly change. The accompanying fetch is not expected to line up very well within our swell window however we should still manage 2-3ft sets at south facing beaches (perhaps a little bigger in the Hunter). 

No great quality is expected from this source, and I’m a little dubious on the local winds as the latest computer models maintain a weak trough off the Lower Mid North Coast into Wednesday morning before it moves away to the east. This would suggest a lingering SE airstream across the Sydney and Hunter coasts (with light variable winds on the South Coast) but as there’s no major strength expected in the winds, we may see local topographical influences override the synoptic wind. So, early sou’westers are possible in a few spots. Either way don’t get too excited about your early Wednesday session; SE breezes will probably return by lunchtime anyway.

Thursday and Friday both look rather nondescript in the surfing department right now. A series of strong fronts are expected to slide beneath Tasmania and the Tasman Sea, however they will display a strong zonal component (west-east) which means they’ll be poorly aligned within our swell window. As such, we should see small levels of south swell across south facing beaches - biggest in the Hunter - throughout this period. A troughy pattern across the coastal margin will create variable conditions, generally light winds in the morning with freshening nor’easters in the afternoon.

This weekend (Oct 11-12)

Nothing of major interest expected for this weekend right now. All swell windows are expected to remain relatively quiet so it looks like both days will see very small residual swell at exposed beaches. Let’s see if Wednesday’s model update things more favourably.

Long term (Oct 13 onwards)

The long term computer models don’t have much to get excited about right now - a possible strong frontal passage early Monday morning with a subsequent short range southerly swell through into Tuesday and maybe Wednesday, but that’s hardly out of the ordinary for any time of the year.

One area I will be keeping a close eye on this week though is the central/northern Tasman Sea. The small trough I mentioned that’s due to be positioned off the Lower Mid North Coast early Wednesday morning is forecast to slowly track eastwards though the end of the week, before stalling north-west of New Zealand’s North Island later in the week. 

At this stage there’s a suggestion that this trough could slowly intensify into a reasonable swell producing system over the weekend; in fact there’s a reasonable chance that early next week could see some notable developments south of Fiji as the trough interacts with some tropical activity further north. 

As such, if I were to go out on a limb, I’d speculate that next week may see a decent easterly swell about the East Coast (tending E/NE across the Sydney and South Coast), probably from about mid-next week through into the following weekend. Let’s keep a close eye on proceedings over the coming days to see what happens.