Late arrivals

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 24th November)

Best Days: We've got a couple of days of southerly swell coming up but local winds really don't look too flash. For now, make the most of early Wednesday; hopefully the forecast for later in the week will tighten up over the coming days. 

Recap: Saturday’s small S’ly swell pushed a smidge higher than forecast, but with average conditions on hand there wasn’t much to get excited about. Very small swells then padded out Sunday, and there's been hardly anything leftover today.

This week (Nov 25-28)

Tuesday isn’t looking very good now. The persistent northerly fetch off the coast is expected to remain just outside our swell window overnight, focusing a small short range N’ly swell straight through the central-western Tasman Sea on Tuesday. We’ll see a small level of energy glance the coast but I’m not expecting much more than 1ft+ in Sydney with perhaps a little more size south of Wollongong.

A gusty S’ly change will concurrently advance along the Southern NSW coast, and is expected into Sydney mid-late morning. I’m expecting two pulses of swell from this system (in fact, this will be the first of a whole series of southerly swells expected over the coming week); initially some local windswell due into the afternoon ahead of a small, but more prominent groundswell arriving very late in the day - probably too late to be of any use to most surfers.

As it is, conditions will be bumpy at those south facing beaches picking up the initial windswell (say, 2ft sets thru’ the afternoon, reaching 2-3ft on dark) so it’s probably not worth getting too excited about unless the swell runs ahead of schedule and the winds throttle right back, which may not happen until the evening.

Wednesday morning looks OK, although Tuesday night’s flush of small south swell is expected to be a brief event and will taper of during the day.

Winds should be light and variable early morning, and this will be the best time to surf. This particular south swell will have originated from a band of gale force W/SW winds existing eastern Bass Strait early Tuesday morning, so there’ll be a big range in wave heights across the coast - tiny at most beaches, but up to 2-3ft at south facing beaches across the Sydney region with a little more size in the Hunter. Expect smaller surf from about mid-morning onwards.

From here on we’ve got a very complex week of small southerly swells for the region. In fact, there are eight individual sources of south swell on target throughout the forecast period, all of which have specific timing attributes, consequently making it hard to be totally confident on how wave heights will ebb and flow all week.

The next pulse of small southerly swell will originate from the parent low to Tuesday’s front, displaying a much stronger fetch south of Tasmania. Again, this won’t be well aligned for the coast and it’ll be further from the mainland than its predecessors - however wind strengths are modelled to be higher (so, does that balance out the previous negatives?). In any case, we’re looking at a very late Wednesday arrival in Sydney - again, probably too late to be of benefit to most surfers, although the South Coast will see it earlier, possibly mid afternoon. 

At this stage set waves in the 2ft+ range at south facing beaches seems the most likely scenario, which should persist into Thursday morning ahead of a rapid easing trend during the day. However local winds are looking average thanks to the passage of a shallow trough that may bring about a moderate to fresh SE change across all districts. So don’t get your hopes up for Thursday at this stage.

Another small pulse of southerly energy is then due in overnight Thursday (see the pattern here? All very late arrivals, peaking under the cover of darkness before easing the next day). This late Thursday energy will trend downwards during Friday, but in any case no major size is expected and model guidance is maintaining a ridge across Northern NSW which may steer local winds to the SE north of about Wollongong.

Late Friday is where things get interesting. For the fourth consecutive day we’re looking at the ‘late arrival’ of two seperate pulses of southerly swell. One from a rapidly eastwards tracking front embedded in the westerly belt through the southern Tasman Sea on Thursday, and another swell with more S/SE in its direction, originating from the stalled parent low well to the SW of New Zealand’s South Island on Wednesday. This swell is due into Sydney late Friday afternoon, and should produce wave heights around 3ft+ at south facing beaches in the hour or so before dusk (with bigger sets in the Hunter, if it arrives before sundown). 

Let’s wait a few days before confirming afternoon local winds (which may still be under the influence of the ridge to the north).

This weekend (Nov 29-30)

Friday’s late arrival of new swell should provide good good waves for the dawn patrol on Saturday. Additionally, light winds under the influence of a broad high pressure system should maintain clean conditions. At this stage we’re looking at around 3ft at most south facing beaches (smaller surf elsewhere), with 3-4ft+ sets in the Hunter. Expect a fairly pronounced easing trend during the day, and a freshening sea breeze too. So, early bird n’ all that jazz.

Small residual southerly swells are then expected on Sunday, along with a small NE windswell generated from Saturday afternoon/evening’s winds. Yet another southerly groundswell is expected to arrive - you guessed it - late in the day, but I’m not confident on the timing just yet. Either way it looks like a small but very well lined up event that could produce some tidy lil’ waves at exposed south facing beaches. However it may end up being a Monday swell. I’ll update over the coming days.

Long term (Dec 1st onwards)

With very little activity expected in our east and north-east swell windows, we’ll need to continue our focus to the south for the long term. And the good news is that there’s a lot of activity expected in the Southern Ocean that should maintain a steady supply of southerly swell through the first half of next week. More on this over the coming days.   


batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink Wednesday, 26 Nov 2014 at 4:19pm

Christ I hope you are right about next week Ben.

I'm looking at charts that hint at never-ending nothingness apart from the possibilities of late this Friday and perhaps early Saturday.

Southern Ocean energy for next week is my hope but I can't see anything. Donw hinted at something on another forum also, but he tends to be looking at those qld/northern nsw spots, and I can't see anything there either.

Things are getting desperate. I have the opportunity to get away for a long weekend of just surfing and there is nothing, nada, zip.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Wednesday, 26 Nov 2014 at 4:23pm

Which coast are you on BF?