Another strong south swell for Saturday
Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 6th March)
Best Days: Sat: strong south swell with light winds in the morning. Sun: rapidly easing south swell with good conditions early.
Recap: Small leftovers Thursday morning with light winds. Strong late increase in south swell (but with accompanying gusty S’ly winds) that has held throughout today - surf size seemed to ease through the morning (following an initial peak at dawn) but we’ve seen a strong pulse this afternoon with easy 6ft sets at Bondi (see pics below from around 4pm). Newcastle was even bigger this morning with bombs in the 6-8ft range. Winds have remained generally light to moderate offshore all day so conditions are pretty good (although Cronulla’s just picked up a moderate E’ly wind in the last hour).
This weekend (Mar 7-8)
We’ve got a great weekend of waves ahead. A strong secondary front rounding the Tasmanian corner will generate a new southerly swell for Saturday morning, and based on today’s performance I’ve upped size expectations for Saturday, with south facing beaches likely to see 5-6ft+ surf (and bigger 6-8ft waves in the Hunter).
This swell should resemble much of what we’ve seen today, that is: strong lines of swell with four or five waves in each set, however due to the acute southerly swell direction, wave heights will be much smaller at beaches not open to the south (and very small inside protected southern corners). A slight easing trend will most likely occur after lunch.
Conditions are looking good on the balance but best suited to the morning session. Moderate onshore winds developing this afternoon will linger overnight but ease just before dawn to become light and variable into the morning. So, there may be a few bumps initially but it’ll clean up quickly. We’re looking at light winds up until the early afternoon when moderate to fresh NE winds are forecast to develop, so the best surf will probably happen mid-late morning.
On Sunday, the south swell will fade rapidly but exposed south swell magnets - particularly in the Hunter - should still see some solid sets early. Most south facing beaches should see 3-4ft sets (bigger in the Hunter) but it’ll ease to 2-3ft by lunchtime and may become a little smaller into the afternoon. Away from these locations, expect smaller surf.
As for Sunday’s winds - a weak trough is expected to linger about the coast so the best estimate is for light and variable winds throughout the day (which could mean onshore at some point). Best option will be to aim for an early surf as that’s when we’ll see the most size, and probably the best chance for light offshores too.
Next week (Mar 9 onwards)
Next week looks pretty small for the most part.
A general lack of activity within our primary swell windows from Sunday onwards means that we’ll be relying on residual energy to keep open beaches rideable. There are no significant wind changes on the cards - a shallow southerly early Tuesday, northerlies through Wednesday then another shallow southerly Thursday - but without any major size there’s not much to look forward to.
The next system of note appears to be a series of cold fronts entering the southern Tasman Sea later Thursday, which should give rise to a decent mid-range south swell on Friday. I’ll revise the estimates on Monday but for now we’re looking at 3-4ft+ at south facing beaches.
Otherwise, the tropics continue to offer some strong potential for the long term. Building tradewinds all week won’t initially favour the southern NSW coast but we should see a foot or two of E/NE swell filtering in later Thursday or Friday.
Of much more interest is a Tropical Cyclone modelled to develop out in the Solomons/Vanuatu region early next week. Whilst it’s too early to consider swell potential from the cyclone itself, a strengthening easterly flow south of this system - within our swell window - should increase E/NE swell for southern NSW, probably sometime over the weekend and into the first half of next week.
And yes, there is a chance for a significant swell event from the cyclone itself (around the same time) however as we’ve seen a couple of times already this year, Tropical Cyclones are very tricky to forecast, even at short range - so there’s not much value speculating on potential swell scenarios more than a week out from such an erratic source.
Nevertheless, this weather system will absolutely be the focal point of these forecast notes for the coming week and a half - I'm really looking forward to tracking its movements daily.
See you Monday!