Strong south swell, dodgy winds

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 4th February)

Best Days: Thurs/Fri: pity about local winds as there'll be a strong S'ly swell in the water. Sat: good south swell with morning offshores. Sun: small but clean early.

Recap: Southerly winds made conditions tricky on Tuesday, but this morning opened up with early light offshore winds ahead of a southerly change that arrived a little later than expected (so conditions were clean south of Sydney, and remained clean north of Sydney for much longer). Set waves were very inconsistent but in the 3ft range at exposed spots. It's a shame that the early-mid morning high tide swallowed up a lot of the energy, as there were some good waves around. Hard to tell yet whether we’re seeing any long range NE swell from ex-TC Ola. However there are some nice lines in the 2ft+ range across the Manly stretch, as per the surfcam, which don’t quite match up with south swell expectations. But I’m yet to be convinced.

This week (Feb 5 - 6)

Bummer about Thursday's local winds, as we’re looking at a pretty strong southerly groundswell pushing through during the day. Our model has slightly upgraded the size potential for south facing beaches (from 4-5ft to 5-6ft, peaking after lunch) and these figures seem quite possible given the strength, duration and broad coverage of the fetch trailing the responsible front in the southern Tasman Sea. Expect some bigger bombs in the Hunter.

However with moderate to fresh SE winds on hand the best locations will be very bumpy; southern corners will be your only option (and they’ll be much smaller). Winds will back off during the day so it’ll be worth keeping an eye on the surfcams for a late improvement. 

As for NE swell potential - I’m not holding my breath. Wave heights came in close to, if perhaps a little smaller than expected in the north but TC Ola changed tact on Tuesday against Monday's model guidance, which altered the ongoing expectations of swell from it (especially in our region). So I think it’s probably worth dismissing for now.

Local winds will ease a little through Friday but generally still remain out of the SE. So, apart from a brief possible window of variable winds at dawn (at a few select locations like the Northern Beaches), conditions will remain a little below spec. 

A secondary pulse of groundswell is due through the afternoon and the combination of this late building energy - plus easing swell from Thursday - should maintain 3-4ft+ sets at south facing beaches, with smaller waves elsewhere. We may see a small dip in size through the middle of the day between swells, but either way there’ll be plenty of surf on offer at beaches exposed to the south.

This weekend (Feb 7 - 8)

Looking pretty good on the whole. Friday’s late new S’ly swell should hold into Saturday morning with good 3-4ft waves at south facing beaches (bigger sets in the Hunter) and winds should swing light and variable ahead of a an afternoon NE sea breeze. An easing trend is expected after lunch so make the most of the early session. Expect smaller waves at beaches without full southerly exposure.

On Sunday we’ll be on the backside of this swell event so expect a similar but smaller story as per Saturday, but with the best waves restricted to south swell magnets. 

Next week (Feb 9 onwards)

Monday’s got a small, interesting swell on the cards - a minor pulse of long range SE groundswell from a broad but ultimately poorly aligned low pressure system expected to stall well SE of New Zealand on Thursday afternoon. We’ll really see just a fraction of glancing energy but (assuming the Sydney buoy is back by then) it may produce some interesting numbers on the spectral data. Probably just a couple of inconsistent feet at best at open beaches though.

We also have a series of rather ordinary fronts tracking south of the lower Tasman Sea which should maintain small levels of south swell for exposed beaches through much of next week.

Of greater interest is our E/NE swell window (essentially, the trades north of New Zealand) which are expected to fire up and develop a broad, sustained fetch through the long term forecast period. Although this will be much better aimed towards locations well north of Sydney, we are certainly looking at a good chance for an extended period of small to moderate E/NE swell across Southern NSW.

This fetch is not expected to really kick up until early next week so it’ll be mid-late next week where we’ll start to see the benefit at the coast, with next weekend potentially on target for a solid E/NE groundswell if we see some of the speculated (modelled) developments within this fetch mid-next week. More on this in Friday’s notes.


evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer Wednesday, 4 Feb 2015 at 8:38pm

This happened a lot last year where we get a nice ground swell and some stupid onshore
crap wind that has nothing to do with the swell just wrecks havoc with it and ruins the swell. 2015 the trend continues. Does my head in.

mick-free's picture
mick-free's picture
mick-free Thursday, 5 Feb 2015 at 8:54pm

Thats a beautiful swell coming in tonight in Sydney. Shame about the winds.

Looks pretty ordinary for the Hurley comp from Sunday onwards

wellymon's picture
wellymon's picture
wellymon Thursday, 5 Feb 2015 at 9:45pm

5 people today over there, MagnetMF
Some great runners;)