Wide variety of swells coming up

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 10th November)

Best Days: Wed/Thurs: strong S'ly swell (and a small E/NE swell in the mix) with OK winds in the morning. Fri: fun mix of S/SE, NE and E/NE swells with a brief period of NW winds. Sat: small peaky NE swell under a fresh S'ly change.

Recap: Tiny leftover S’ly swell Saturday with early light winds freshening from the NE in the afternoon. Small NE windswell Sunday morning with a gusty S’ly change whipping up an additional small S’ly windswell in the afternoon. A very small, inconsistent east swell filled in this morning offering a period of tiny clean waves for the dawn patrol. However winds are now freshening from the south. This long range east swell seems to have muscled up a little this afternoon with 1-2ft sets on display at Manly.

This week (Nov 11-14)

We’ve got an overarching southerly theme in store for the next four days. A strong frontal progression through the southern Tasman Sea is expected to generate around four days of pulsey energy from the south, but local winds will dictate the best waves. 

Tuesday is looking a little dicey overall, mainly due to a lingering southerly wind in the lee of today’s change. There’s a remote chance for a brief period of light SW winds in the morning in a few locations but it’s quite likely that surf size will be a little undersized by this time, even if it does eventuate. Wave heights should build throughout the day though, reaching 3ft+ at south swell magnets late by afternoon (a little bigger in the Hunter) but expect conditions to be below par at this time.

The overall peak in this swell cycle is due to push through in two phases - one on Wednesday and a second on Thursday - with most south facing beaches expected to reach 4-5ft (bigger 6ft+ sets in the Hunter). Note: this is a little bigger than our automated surf forecast model is estimating (which has 4ft sets at Sydney's south facing beaches) but I'm reasonably confident in there being a little more size due to the sheer breadth, length and duration of this frontal progression. 

Obviously, beaches not open to the south will be much smaller and it’s hard to pin down the specific timing of both peaks: if I were to hedge my bets, Wednesday mid-morning looks to be a good contender at this stage (with a slight easing trend in the afternoon), with most of Thursday morning and lunchtime likely to remain at a similar level before easing mid-late afternoon onwards.

The mornings will also be your best time to surf, as local conditions will deteriorate throughout the days as NE winds freshen. In particular they’ll become quite gusty on Thursday afternoon (and perhaps with an earlier onset than Wednesday) so aim for the dawn patrol for the best conditions. 

One other source will also supply a small undercurrent of useful swell all week, that’s worth noting here (although it may not be the most prominent  energy in the water). A low pressure system is deepening north of New Zealand at the moment, and is expected to display a healthy E/SE fetch aimed mainly at points well north of Sydney. However we should see small E/NE energy on Tuesday (similar to what's in the water this afternoon), building more prominently on Wednesday afternoon and into Thursday with inconsistent 2ft+ sets at open beaches, before easing through Friday

Friday morning is also looking pretty fun. We’re looking at a final pulse of S/SE swell from this broad frontal passage (maintaining 3ft sets at south facing beaches, bigger in the Hunter) and Thursday’s freshening nor’easter are likely to have whipped up a peaky 2ft to almost 3ft at NE facing beaches. Winds are due to freshen from the NE again but there should be a period of light NW winds for a brief period at dawn. As such the combination of swells should provide some fun peaky options across most open beaches. 

This weekend (Nov 15-16)

Freshening NE winds on Friday afternoon should maintain a healthy 2-3ft NE swell across NE facing beaches early Saturday, however model guidance has a gusty southerly change due in early morning. This change should also kick up a peaky short range swell for exposed south facing beaches in the afternoon, but at this stage we really need a few more days to identify the best window of opportunity. There may also be some small lingering southerly groundswell in the water (from Friday) but this will be fading fast.

Sunday looks to be a tricky call right now, with a mobile long wave pattern modeled to approach the state form the west. This will probably result in a dynamic day of weather - the most likely scenario being early N’ly winds ahead of a gusty S’ly change, however what surf we see from this source is yet to be determined  (as all three of Saturday’s swells are likely to be almost completely gone by this time). Let’s fine tune the details on Wednesday.

Long term (Nov 17 onwards)

We’ve got another strong series of cold fronts due through the lower Tasman from Sunday night onwards, which looks like renewing south swell activity across southern NSW for the first half of the week. I’ll update this in more detail over the the coming days.