Fun surf early Saturday, dicey winds early next week, NE groundswell long term
Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 16th January)
Best Days: Sat: fun leftovers early with offshore winds. Sun/Mon/Tues (peak likely Tues AM): pulsey new south swell but dicey winds at times. Fri onwards: chance for a solid NE groundswell.
Recap: Pretty much bang on expectations - a couple of inconsistent feet of leftover, easing E/NE swell early Thursday, followed by a building S’ly swell in the afternoon (2-3ft sets at swell magnets) whilst this morning delivered a second, bigger round of S’ly swell with south facing beaches picking up anywhere between 3ft and almost 5ft of punchy surf, and smaller waves elsewhere. Light winds both mornings and afternoon sea breezes.
This weekend (Jan 17 - 19)
No change to the forecast for Saturday.
Today’s south swell will start to ease this evening and we can expect a steady downwards trend overnight and throughout Saturday. South facing beaches should still be seeing 2ft+ sets early morning (with bigger waves in the Hunter) but you’ll be best off aiming for the early session as smaller waves will prevail from mid-late morning onwards.
Also in the water on Saturday will be a very small, and very inconsistent E/NE swell from a mid-week low north of New Zealand. No major size is expected, just an occasional 1-2ft set. Conditions should be clean with westerlies in the morning ahead of a light to moderate sea breeze from about mid-afternoon onwards.
Sunday’s south swell has been downgraded, due to a few small changes in the particulars of a strong frontal progression below Tasmania today and tomorrow. Whilst still very strong, the fetch looks like it’ll be a little more zonal (west-east aligned) than Wednesday’s models suggested, which will restrict surf size along the East Coast. Still, we should see an upwards trend throughout Sunday (small early, but building towards a late afternoon peak) and south facing beaches should see late 2-3ft sets, with a few bigger waves in the Hunter.
Unfortunately, this peak in size will coincide with a developing south-easterly change as a ridge pushes along the coast, so conditions will probably be quite ordinary for the late session. Your best chance will be to snaffle a few waves late morning - hopefully as the new swell starts to appear, but before the early variable winds swing onshore. It’ll be a small window at best but keep an eye on the surfcams for signs of life, and the weather stations for wind guidance.
Next week (Jan 20 onwards)
The weekend’s frontal progression is still quite a beauty despite being a little less favourably aligned for us (heading to New Zealand? Fiji? Tonga? Samoa? You’re gonna score tidy waves).
Nevertheless, we will see a reasonable level of direct south swell occupying the water through Monday and Tuesday. It’ll pulse irregularly throughout this time, thanks to several swell sources all contributing energy of differing size and periods (meaning the overlapping trains are hard to distinguish within the model data) but we should see peak wave heights in Sydney around 3-4ft (bigger in the Hunter) - but much smaller at remaining beaches.
Note: our surf forecast model isn't resolving this well right now - Monday’s numbers are quite low - but perhaps we’ll see this adjust upwards over the weekend (however, Tuesday morning is currently pegged to see the upper end of this size range, expect slightly smaller surf Monday).
Unfortunately, local winds are looking dicey during this period as Sunday’s ridge moves out into the Tasman Sea and a coastal trough develops in its wake, bringing moderate to fresh southeast, then easterly, then northeasterly winds (from early Mon thru’ late Tues). As such, you’ll need to keep a lid on expectations for any notable quality - the only hope is that by the time Tuesday’s pulse arrives, local winds are well established from the north-east so that those few south swell magnets that offer protection will have something worthwhile. However it’s likely that Tuesday morning will see easterly winds at this stage: stay tuned for updates.
Also, these local onshore winds will kick up some local energy that could - depending on how strong the winds become - reach a decent size. At this stage 2-3ft out of the east is likely on Tuesday, maybe a smidge more from the NE thru' Wednesday. But we really need a few more days to have confidence in this source (it's not like it's going to be very good quality anyway).
Otherwise, all of the long term focus will be on the Coral Sea where we’re expecting some significant developments mid-late week as a broad Tropical Low develops north-west of New Caledonia and tracks southwards towards our swell window. At this stage SE Qld and Northern NSW are on track for a pretty decent round of solid easterly groundswell, and a small level of this will probably begin to filter into Sydney around Thursday.
However, there are strong signals from the computer models that we’ll see this low line up within our NE swell window, so from Friday or Saturday onwards we could be looking at a very good round of NE groundswell. I’ll have more on this in Monday’s update.