Wet and windy, then large from the south
Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Tuesday 27th January)
Best Days: Thurs: building S/SE swell with winds tending S/SW, maybe SW. Fri: large building S'ly swell with SW winds. Sat/Sun: large, easing S'ly swell with light winds.
Recap: In general, the weekend delivered great waves out of the E/NE with solid sets reported at many locations Saturday, ahead of a slight easing through Sunday. However, there have been reports of significantly undersized surf on Saturday in the Illawarra, which somewhat defies explanation (due to the swell’s broad, mid-range source from a fetch that spent a decent length of time in the swell window). Monday’s surf was marred by gusty southerly winds, although there was a strong combination of east and south swells in the water. Today we’ve seen the southerly winds ease and tend more easterly, as a moderate combo of south and east swells continues about the coast.
This week (Jan 28 onwards)
Since last Wednesday I’ve been talking about a deepening trough in the central Tasman Sea, retrograding westward back to the coast with a chance for a sizeable, albeit wet and windy swell. The good news is that the swell is on track. And even better - winds look like they’re going to play ball at the peak of the swell too.
Right now the trough is nicely formed but it’s not very well aligned within our swell window. At the moment we’re seeing moderate to fresh E’ly through SE winds at the coast, and some residual south and east swell from yesterday that’ll fall away into Wednesday.
These onshore winds are modelled to muscle up a tad during the day as the trough continues its slow westward path, but most of the current fetch is aimed to coasts north of Sydney so we’re looking at moderate sideband energy in the 3-4ft range at exposed beaches out of the SE. Don’t expect much quality.
On Thursday, this system will draw nearer the coast and a low will start to wind up at the southern extent of the trough, roughly east of Bass Strait. Initially we probably won’t see much more size in the water than Wednesday, but the swell direction should swing more to the S/SE. Winds should swing more S/SW too, and maybe even SW later, which should clean up a few more beaches (although they’ll be much smaller as the swell direction veers to the south).
Wave heights will then start to build throughout Thursday afternoon as the low deepens to the south, with bumpy 4-6ft waves possible at south facing beaches in the few hours before dusk. Expect smaller, but cleaner surf at protected spots.
Friday’s where all of the action is due to kick in. With the low almost stationary in the south-western Tasman Sea by this time, we will have had a long ramp up period and wave heights are expected to push into the 6-8ft range at south facing beaches during the day (probably reaching a peak in the afternoon). Although there’ll still be a small level of S/SE swell in the water, the primary swell direction will be almost straight southerly.
Fresh and gusty SW winds are expected from the Hunter thru’ Sydney and Illawarra regions, with winds tending more S/SW on the South Coast. Expect much smaller waves at beaches with less southerly exposure, in fact they’ll probably be your best option anyway as conditions will be nice and clean here, with more manageable surf conditions. But if you like the big stuff, there could very well be some great options on Friday.
This weekend (Jan 31 - Feb 1)
Friday’s large south swell is expected to hold through much of Saturday. In fact we may see only a small easing trend through the late afternoon and then further into Sunday, so very solid surf is expected for the bulk of the weekend.
Even better: as the low starts to ease and then retreat slowly to the east, winds will become light W/SW with afternoon sea breezes. This is much more likely to occur on Sunday then Saturday, and the South Coast will still feel the effects of the low (via a fresh SW breeze) early Saturday morning, but for the most part we’re looking at a rapid improvement in surface conditions with great, solid waves both days.
I’ll fine tune this in more detail on Friday.
Next week (Feb 2 onwards)
Nothing of major interest for next week - easing south swell for Monday (from the weekend's event), supplemented by some mid-week southerly swell from a series of migratory fronts and lows well south of the Tasman Sea.
Elsewhere, a couple of cyclones are modelled to form out near Samoa and the Cook Islands later this week, but at this stage they don’t look like they’ll produce any worthwhile surf for Australia.
See you Friday!