Mix of swells for the weekend with average winds, pro-longed E/NE swell from next week

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Guy Dixon (Guy Dixon)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Guy Dixon (issued Friday 19th February)

Best Days: Each morning next week


The surf progressively built throughout Wednesday as the short range swell through the morning gave way to a large and powerful southerly groundswell into the afternoon. By around midday, most beaches were seeing sets in the 4-5ft range. The late afternoon saw a very strong kick in swell, stronger and earlier than expected to be completely honest, with 8ft sets breaking across the swell magnets and 10ft bombs at the offshore reefs and exposed bombies. 

Interestingly, most of these reports were coming back from the Northern Beaches, and not all of them for that matter. Beaches south of Sydney were solid, but didn’t see such a notable kick.

This particular combination of swell direction, size and period seems to have favoured the Northern Beaches more than surrounding coasts, likely due to  local bathymetric features.

Wednesday afternoon’s pulse can largely be put down to this strong 45-50kt south/southwesterly fetch which the satellite observed on Tuesday morning to the south and east of Tasmania.

The surf on Thursday held in the 5-6ft range for a lot of places, larger across the Hunter with generally clean and workable conditions during morning. A light southeasterly breeze soon came up taking the edge off the quality, however the afternoon punters were still able to score a few fun ones. Again, for some open beaches, the surf faded into the afternoon, less so at south swell magnets.

Let’s not forget the underlying east/northeasterly energy which contributed around 3-4ft, most noticeable at open beaches.

Today, the southerly swell is on the decline, fading from the 4ft range. East/northeasterly energy has pulsed slightly, with ordered lines in the 3ft+ occasionally 4ft range across open beaches.

This weekend (Saturday 20th - Sunday 21st):

East/northeasterly energy will likely be the dominant source of swell on Saturday as the last hints of southerly energy fade from the 2ft range. The long range trade energy generated by the interaction between STC Winston and a strong ridge to the south is expected to provide subtle ebbs and pulses in the 2-3ft+ range, easing from 2-3ft Sunday, although remaining inconsistent.

Wednesday morning’s satellite pass has observed southeasterly fetches off the back of this week’s cut-off low over southeastern parts of the Tasman of around 30-35kts, although for only a brief amount of time. This fetch soon swung more southerly and the alignment worsened as time went on.

South facing beaches should still pick up around 2-3ft off this brief period of favourable alignment on Saturday, with smaller sideband energy filling in thereafter.

A frontal progression moving south of Tasmania during today, is steering a fairly strong but poorly aligned west/southwesterly fetch through the southern swell window. The alignment of this fetch is way less than ideal, but the 40-45kt core winds still have the potential to provide sideband energy building to the 2-3ft range on Sunday mid-morning across south facing beaches, perhaps a touch larger across the Hunter.

Unfortunately conditions are looking pretty ordinary on Saturday with a southerly breexe being established before dawn. Breezes have the chance of being southwesterly during the early morning, most favourable for open beaches, particularly protected southern corners.

Breezes look to swing more southeasterly and ease throughout Sunday, again with average quality surf.

Next week (Monday 22nd onward):

All swell sources should fade into Monday, with left over options in the 2ft range breaking across open beaches, smaller elsewhere.

By this stage, light northwesterly breezes are on the cards for the early session, giving way to an increasing northeasterly breeze from late morning.

STC Winston has been slowly drifting westward over the past few days and looks to continue on it’s path until Monday (hopefully not bringing too much impact to the Pacific Islands).

From that point, this system then looks to move south, dropping further into the NSW swell window steering an increasingly favourable easterly flow along the southern quadrants as it interacts with a Tasman Ridge.

The Tasman ridge itself has been maintaining an elongated east/southeasterly airflow over the past few days which should provide an increase in trade energy late on Monday into Tuesday.

Inconsistent sets have the potential to break across open beaches in the 3ft to occasionally 4ft range on Tuesday.

Make the most of early light north/northwesterly breezes as it shouldn't last long, increasing from the north/northeast from mid-morning.

East/northeasterly energy looks to be prolonged, potentially sustaining for a week and growing slowly as the fetches become more favourably aligned.

Open beaches look to ebb and pulse between 3-5ft from Thursday onwards, before building further as this system drops southward rapidly.

The early mornings hold the best chance for a clean wave each day.

The southward motion of Winston is likely to be the his last tour of the Tasman, moving south towards New Zealand relatively quickly. Nevertheless, the system looks to maintain intensity as it likely undergoes extra-tropical transition.

Energy from this stage of it's life cycle looks to fill in across open beaches on the weekend, with strong sets potentially building to the 4-6ft range.