Easing south swell; mainly small next week

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 15th May)

Best Days: Sun: light winds and easing S'ly swell. Late Mon/Tues/Wed: small long period S'ly swell at exposed beaches. Thurs: may see a window of small NE swell and clean conditions.

Recap: Steadily building S’ly swell Thursday that reached a peak in size this morning, around 8ft at south facing beaches with 10ft bombs in the Hunter. Winds were favourable for a brief period both mornings but gusty S/SE tending S’ly winds have otherwise dominated the coast.

This weekend (May 16 - 17)

For the entire weekend the trend is simply downwards in south swell.

The weather system responsible for this current event has already exited our swell window, so the easing trend should be relatively linear - early 5-6ft sets at south facing beaches early Saturday morning (smaller at remaining beaches, depending on southerly exposure), then losing a foot or two by lunchtime, and further into the afternoon. The Hunter will see bigger waves, but the main concern is the regional southerly airstream, which although weakening, will still have some bite (plus there’ll be leftover lumpiness from today’s breeze).

There’s a slim chance for isolated pockets of SW winds early morning (mainly Northern Beaches) but I wouldn’t hold your breath. So, expect average conditions on the whole.

By Sunday we may still have a few 3-4ft sets at south facing beaches early morning (smaller at remaining beaches, a smidge bigger in the Hunter) but it’ll continue to ease throughout the day. Fortunately, local winds are looking excellent as a high pressure system dominates the western Tasman Sea, so early offshores should prevail at most beaches through the morning ahead of light to moderate afternoon sea breezes. Exposed locations may continue to see slightly lumpy/leftover conditions but overall it’ll be a vast improvement. 

Next week and weekend (May 18 onwards)

An absence of weather activity in the Tasman Sea for the first half of next week means we’ll be relying on distant swell sources to keep the exposed beaches humming. Fortunately, the Southern Ocean has a lot of strong frontal systems to push through, and this will be the focal point from late Monday thru' Wednesday.

Monday should see small residual energy in the morning, ahead of a new long period south swell reaching the Far South Coast late morning, and hopefully pushing up into the Illawarra, Sydney and Hunter coasts into the late afternoon. Right now the timing is a little knife-edge, and it doesn’t look like there’ll be much size with it anyway - just a few stray 1-2ft sets at exposed south facing beaches (probably about the same size as the leftover south swell anyway). Conditions should be good with light winds.

On Tuesday, a slightly longer period S’ly swell originating from an even deeper low/front combo in the Southern Ocean (due south of Tasmania on Sunday) will push through and this should supply a little more size at south facing beaches, albeit very inconsistent. Set waves may nudge up between 2ft and maybe 3ft but there’ll be very long breaks between sets, and it’ll be much smaller at remaining locations. Similarly light winds should maintain clean conditions, and this swell will ease slowly through Wednesday with freshening northerly winds as a front approaches from the west.

The rest of the week looks interesting. Freshening pre-frontal northerly winds later Wednesday and early Thursday may whip up a small short range NE swell for Thursday, and a gusty W’ly change is due during the day (so there may be a clean afternoon window of small peaky NE waves). A strong return southerly flow in the wake of the front looks like it’ll kick up a solid, possibly large but short-lived south swell sometime on Friday, but we’ll have to review the data in more detail next week to evaluate any potential.

Beyond that it looks like another progression of cold fronts are due through the southern Tasman Sea, which should lead to another spell of continual south swell from next weekend through the first half of the following week.

Have a great weekend, see you on Monday!


surfstarved's picture
surfstarved's picture
surfstarved Friday, 15 May 2015 at 4:51pm

Glad you could muster up a bit of swell for the end of the week next week boys. Will be interested in seeing how the southerlies develop through the following week, because by then I'll be in a campervan with the family following the coast around from Sydney to Adelaide. Looking promising at this stage though...