South swell magnets are the go

Guy Dixon picture
Guy Dixon (Guy Dixon)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Guy Dixon (issued Wednesday 30th September)

Best Days: Thursday morning, and each morning before winds swing on Saturday and Monday, possibly undersized.


The remnants of a southeasterly ground swell has steadily faded over the past couple of days across all coasts. Tuesday offer clean 2-3ft peaks early across the Hunter under light northwesterly breezes, however the quality dropped slightly in the afternoon as a light seabreeze kicked in. Similarly, the Illawarra and Sydney coasts were clean in the morning preceding an afternoon seabreeze with peaks in the 2ft range.

The Hunter is still picking up some residual energy this afternoon with surf in the 2ft range, however the Sydney and Illawarra coasts are lacking energy with small weak options in the 1-2ft range. Southeasterly breezes are whipping a few bumps, all in all, pretty ordinary.

This week (Thursday 1st - Friday 2nd):

The small scale low which was discussed in Monday’s notes moved into the swell window for southern NSW this morning and the associated south/southwesterly gales have shown up on satellite. This is a pretty modest little system and is moving across the swell window which isn’t ideal, but should still provide inconsistent 2ft sets at exposed south magnets for Thursday afternoon, likely undersized at dawn. Remaining locations will be much smaller.

Light variable winds will tend northeasterly and increase throughout the day coinciding with a building swell leading to bumpy conditions in the afternoon.

Friday will see the swell fade across all coasts off the back of this subtle pulse, falling back to the 1ft range.

This weekend (Saturday 3rd - Sunday 4th):

A strong frontal progression is still on track to pass to the south of Tasmania throughout Thursday steering a poorly aligned west/southwesterly fetch of with core winds of around 45-50kts. In Monday’s notes, we identified the most important part of the system being the southerly trailing fetch on the southwestern quadrant. The latest model run has really played down this fetch which mean Saturday’s swell isn’t looking quite as strong.

The surf should still build to around 2-3ft at exposed south facing beaches in the afternoon however, but we will be largely relying on side-band energy for the most size. Remaining beaches will be significantly smaller.

The morning is looking the best in terms of winds under a light northwesterly breeze (westerly along the Illawarra), but as the swell builds, breezes look to increase from the northeast lowering the quality of the surf. Far northern corners will be the go.

A second system which is due to move across the southern Tasman throughout Saturday has also changed quite a lot since the last forecast. 

As the primary low approaches the swell window, a west/southwesterly fetch will slingshot towards southern parts of Tasmania, intensifying a lot later in the swell window than previous model runs. The core fetch of 50-60kt winds is still terribly aligned, however models are still suggesting a healthy trailing southerly fetch to develop. 

The back side of the low is likely to be the main swell generator as it moves through the eastern periphery of the swell window.

All factors taken into consideration, southern NSW should see the long period swell front fill in late Sunday into Monday, however the real increase in size will be felt on Monday afternoon as the bulk of the swell fills in. Exposed south facing locations should bump up to the 3ft range under by the afternoon under a light/moderate northerly flow. The morning session is likely to be clean, but possibly undersized with residual swell from Saturday’s pulse in the 1-2ft range. Open beaches will see little to no size from this pulse.

Next week (Monday 5th onward):

The blocking pattern which allowed for last week’s slow moving weather systems has now broken down and we are in a more zonal pattern.

In the coming week, frontal activity will remain fairly active, however any fronts will pass through the swell window rapidly which leaves very little time for significant swell generation. We will have to rely on small pulses of short range southerly energy in the long term.

Side note - early indications show a northeasterly breeze hugging the NSW coast ahead of front on Tuesday/Wednesday. This sort of set-up can often whip up a fun northeasterly wind swell peaking as winds tending offshore preceding the change. It’s still pretty early in the piece to be pinning down the timing of a change with any sort of accuracy, but we will keep an eye out for some fun a-frame action.


nickg's picture
nickg's picture
nickg Wednesday, 30 Sep 2015 at 11:35pm

tough period to forecast. you're earning your keep.

even tougher to get a decent wave, warm weather, small surf.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Friday, 2 Oct 2015 at 3:25pm

Looks like that lil' south swell from yesty is still lingering across the coast. Shame winds are onshore!