Great surf right across the board

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 21st January)

Best Days: Thurs/Fri: Great surf if you can find a pocket of favourable winds (aim for the morning). Sat/Sun: strong pulsey E/NE swell with good winds in general. Mon: good options in southern corners. Tues onwards: chance for a large local swell.

Recap: Terrible waves Tuesday with gusty onshore winds and a mix of S’ly groundswell and E/NE windswell. Much better surf today as the E/NE swell tends more NE, and local winds slacken off they’re still onshore but haven’t been much above 10kts (except for Newcastle where early light winds are now E’ly at 19kts, gusty 23kts). Wave heights were steady around 2-3ft at most locations this morning but bigger surf has been observed at some NE swell magnets throughout the afternoon. 

This week (Jan 22 - 23)

Note: forecast notes will be brief this week as Craig’s away

We’ve got some really nice surf likely over the coming days.

A large high in the eastern Tasman Sea extended a broad NE fetch through the central Tasman down to southern Tasmanian latitudes. This is generating a quality short range NE swell for most parts of the coast, as long as the local winds are co-operating. They went against model forecast guidance this morning and remained much lighter than expected, so the surf quality ramped up a few notches. This is what you'll need to keep an eye out for over the coming days.

The good news is that the models maintain this long NE fetch for the next few days, in much of a stationary position. So, we can expect similar NE swell through Thursday and Friday, generally around 3ft at most open beaches (smaller waves at south facing beaches) but possibly some bigger sets at NE swell magnets. 

Additionally, on Friday we’ll see a second, stronger E/NE swell fill into the coast during the afternoon, generated by a slowly intensifying Tropical Low that’s meandering across the Northern Tasman Sea, just S/SW of New Caledonia.

Again, we’ve had a minor upgrade in the modeled strength of this system over the last few days, so as a result we should see slightly longer swell periods and therefore, marginally bigger surf than what was estimated on Monday.

Friday morning should therefore start off very similar to Thursday, but through the middle of the day wave heights are expected to build further and by mid-afternoon we should be starting to see sets in the 3-5ft range at NE swell magnets.

Interestingly, our surf model isn't picking up this swell very well right now but I'd expect it to resolve properly by tomorrow (perhaps coming in just a little under what my estimates are). 

The key factor to scoring good waves during this period will be to work around the local winds. We’re expecting very little change in the synoptic pattern (i.e. nor’easters the whole time) but as we’ve seen today, periods of lighter winds are possible at times. There’s no way of knowing when exactly this will occur - as it’s less likely to result from terrestrial influences (i.e. brief offshores at dawn), but in any case model guidance suggests that the mornings will probably see these periods of lighter winds, with the afternoons way more susceptible to gustier NE winds.

This weekend (Jan 24 - 25)

Jeez, the weekend looks pretty good at this stage.

E/NE swell from the low in the Northern Tasman should hold steady through Saturday, and winds are expected to be variable thanks to a local troughy pattern. We may see a few pockets of trouble (wind wise) during the day but right now it’s looking pretty good on the balance. I’ll have more on this in Friday’s update.

Sunday morning will probably see smaller surf as the E/NE swell fades, however this low is expected to track slowly southwards through Thursday and Friday before re-intensifying in the central Tasman Sea early Saturday, generating a fresh round of solid E/NE swell for the southern NSW coast. 

This new energy is currently expected to peak early Monday, but we should start to see a steady upwards trend through Sunday afternoon. The biggest waves will occur in the Far South (as that’s where the fetch will be primarily aimed) but in any case I still think we’re likely to see a fresh shot of E/NE swell across Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra coasts somewhere between 3ft and maybe 5ft if we're lucky. 

Let’s see how Friday’s model runs pan out as it’s quite a tricky system that could swing one way or the other over the next few days.

As for Sunday’s winds: a gusty southerly change is due into the South Coast in the afternoon (and into Sydney in the evening) but NW winds will precede it. So conditions should be great for most coasts.

Next week (Jan 27 onwards)

If Sunday’s late pulse of E/NE swell eventuates, it’ll probably peak Monday - although it's likely to be a brief event. Unfortunately, we’re expecting gusty southerly winds in the wake of Sunday's late change, so this will restrict options to protected southern corners. However we’ll also see a punchy increase in short range south swell too. Either way there should be very good options about some parts of the coast, just at much fewer locations due to the local winds.

Interestingly, there’s good agreement across the models that we’ll see a deepening trough across the western/central Tasman Sea early next week (in the wake of Monday's southerly), which could lead to a sizeable local SE swell - although probably accompanied with strong onshore winds in many areas.

So, the short story for the middle of next week is: lots of swell, probably large at times, but also wet and windy. 

See you all on Friday.


stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 at 12:23pm

They've been some good, even very good waves, about the Coal Coast the last few days. Wonder if Kerry has been getting any?

oiley's picture
oiley's picture
oiley Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 at 12:26pm

I think he flew to Java

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 at 12:27pm


mick-free's picture
mick-free's picture
mick-free Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 at 3:20pm

Java has been pumping, so he's probably not there

bigkiwisi's picture
bigkiwisi's picture
bigkiwisi Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 at 7:31pm

Nah, he's driving around with his mates looking for a place thats pumping a bit more than the spot they just checked, even though is a perfect, hollow 4 foot..... (;

geoffrey's picture
geoffrey's picture
geoffrey Thursday, 22 Jan 2015 at 8:15pm

hes waiting for the coldest day of the year with a 5 m south swell stand up barrels with great whites lurking around. charging.