Small windows of opportunity

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 22nd October)

Best Days: Should be some small peaky waves Thursday AM, and (at a pinch) Friday AM. Saturday looks to be the pick of the forecast period (for everywhere but the Hunter) with a NE swell and variable winds. 

Recap: Tuesday was lumpy, bumpy but kinda OK if you didn’t mind adjusting your quality settings. Today offered fun clean waves in the 2ft+ range at south facing beaches, being a mix of long range south and east swell - slightly bigger than was expected - with light offshore winds ahead of a freshening afternoon NE sea breeze. 

This week (Oct 23-24)

A brisk northerly regime will dominate the southern NSW coast for the next few days. A shallow southerly change is expected to grace the South Coast on Thursday but current model guidance still suggests it won’t reach much further north than about Jervis Bay.

The small east swell in the water today - which was certainly punching a little higher than expected in Monday’s notes - is also expected to persist through Thursday. Due to the enormous travel distance, we’re likely to see very long breaks between sets and probably a gradual ease in size as we come off the peak of the swell event, but infrequent 2ft+ sets are possible at most open beaches through the morning.

This afternoon’s NE breeze is also expected to strengthen overnight, and in doing so should whip up a small NE windswell for NE facing beaches (say, 2ft+). The shallow southerly change advancing along the coast (associated with a weak trough) should cause winds to tend light northerly through the morning until freshening nor’easters resume for the afternoon, so the best time to capitalise on this peaky combo of swells will be early morning while winds throttle back. It’ll still be lumpy on top but most beaches should have workable waves if you’re prepared to lower your standards.

Expect smaller surf at south facing beaches as the existing southerly energy fades quickly.

On Friday, we’re looking at a similar combination of east swell - although it will probably be fading - and small NE windswell. I’m less confident on the prospects of NE windswell on Friday because the coastal trough is expected to push the NE fetch slightly offshore, and also align it more meridonal (north-south, i.e. away from the coast) which reduces the chance of anything notable. However as it will have been near-stationary for a few days there should be some residual energy around. I think peaky sets in the 2ft range at open beaches is a reasonable ball park for now, however there's a reasonable chance it'll be even less consistent than Thursday.

At this stage winds are likely to be dominated by a freshening NE trend throughout the day however there is a chance that we’ll see some troughiness linger into the morning and subsequently a light and variable pattern (don’t hold your breath). 

This weekend (Oct 25-26)

This persistent troughiness across eastern New South Wales is creating problems for our surf prospects by keeping a short-range NE fetch away from our near swell window. 

That being said, N/NE winds are expected to become very strong off the Northern NSW coast during Friday. And although it’s not very well aligned within our swell window (mainly due to the swell shadow created by the Hunter curve), we should see some NE swell filter through into Saturday.

As such I’m upgrading the weekend forecast to 'mildy optimistic'. In particular, the latest model guidance has a shallow southerly change (non-swell producing) pushing across the southern NSW coast throughout the day, and ahead of it winds should go light and variable.

We still need a few more days of model data to firm up the outlook but right now I think we might see peaky clean 2-3ft waves at NE facing beaches at some point on Saturday. This swell will probably be restricted to locations from the southern Central Coast to the South Coast - it’s unlikely that the Hunter region will see much size from this source.

Otherwise, a tiny south swell generated by a poorly-aligned front skirting the south-eastern Tasman Sea tomorrow should also produce small lines at south facing beaches on Saturday.

At this stage Sunday will see smaller residual swells with similarly tricky variable winds.  

Long term (Oct 27 onwards)

An amplifying Long Wave Trough below the continent over the weekend is expected to drive a series of strong fronts south of the Tasman Sea early next week, which suggests a return to a persistent southerly swell regime through the middle to latter part of next week. More on this in Friday’s notes. 


kerry1's picture
kerry1's picture
kerry1 Wednesday, 22 Oct 2014 at 10:51pm

Had some fun 3ft waves this morning for two hours should have turned up at 6am instead of 10am. Should be the same thursday but maybe 2ft but will enjoy again and won't say where. Only 7 guys out and thats the way I like it....Love this fulltime surfing. I can forget weekends :)

ACB__'s picture
ACB__'s picture
ACB__ Thursday, 23 Oct 2014 at 1:32pm

lucky bastard.