Flat Saturday; small S'ly swell Mon, then again Wed before a large S'ly swell Thurs

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 30th September)

Best Days: Sun: low/mod chance for a small a'noon pulse of S'ly swell. Wed: small/mod S'ly swell. Thurs: potentially large S'ly swell. 

Recap: Thursday’s south swell punched a little higher than expected, and winds weren’t to strong so there were some very nice waves on offer in northern corners early. A building NE windswell came to within forecast expectations throughout the day, though the expected NW change didn’t quite kick into gear so conditions never cleaned up properly. Wave heights then dropped like a rocket overnight, leaving tiny clean swells across the Southern NSW coast. 

This weekend (Oct 1 - Oct 2)

I’ve been discussing the possibility of a flat weekend since Monday, and unfortunately it looks like it’s going to come true for many beaches.

Right now we’re seeing almost no rideable energy across the coast and with no new swell sources developing within our swell window over the previous 24 hours, Saturday will retain these pancake conditions. Conditions will however be clean with moderate to fresh offshore winds.

A fetch of westerly gales exiting eastern Bass Strait on Saturday won’t be very well aligned within our swell window - models guidance has a straight W’ly fetch, and ideally we need at least a small degree of south in the direction. However, the fetch is expected to be quite wide and and strong, and will retain strength from Saturday afternoon into Sunday morning. 

This should generate a strong W’ly swell across the southern Tasman Sea, that is expected to spread back into the Southern NSW coast during Sunday. Obviously we’ll see just a fraction of the energy as it glances the coast, but south facing beaches should pick up a small pulse of directional south swell throughout the day.

However it’s likely that locations south of the ‘axis of refraction’ (the point whereby the swell rotates away from its source) won’t see much size, so I’m not expecting much new swell across the Far South or even parts of the South Coast. 

As for timing, we’ll probably see a lag at dawn from this new energy across Sydney’s south facing beaches, but there should be some movement by mid-morning and the afternoon is likely to bring about inconsistent 2ft sets, but only at exposed south swell magnets - and there will be very long breaks between set waves. Most beaches will remain tiny to flat.

The northern Hunter may pick up a few bigger waves (than Sydney’s south facing beaches) in the 3ft range but they’ll appear towards the end of the day

And just to cap it off, early NW winds will swing N’ly then N/NE into the afternoon, rendering sheltered northern corners the only worthwhile options. Fortunately, by and large these locations will pick up the most size. 

So, keep your expectations low as it’s certainly not a confident outlook, but there is a reasonable chance that exposed swell magnets will pick up a few small peelers on Sunday afternoon

Next week (Oct 3 onwards)

Northerly winds will freshen overnight on Sunday, building a small windswell for exposed NE facing beaches on Monday though no major size is expected (low quality 1-1.5ft surf at best).

Sunday afternoon’s south swell will all but gone and winds should veer moderate to fresh N/NW, offering partially clean conditions at some beaches - but without any notable size it’s really not worth worrying about.

Strong to gale force W/NW winds will then develop late in the day and persist overnight into Tuesday, once again blowing the ocean flat. It’s very likely that Tuesday will see unrideable small conditions across all beaches. 

These westerly gales will be associated with a series of intense fronts crossing the SE corner of the country. The storm track is expected to ride unusually north in latitude, which is not great for NSW surf prospects as it focuses the primary fetch away from our swell window(s). 

However, the sheer breadth, strength and length of the overall fetch (encompassing every frontal system) is very impressive - we’re looking at four, almost five consecutive days of gale force winds across Tasmania. 

The problem is that the storm track will be very zonal in alignment, so any swell we see at the coast will have to spread back north - resulting in a much smaller percentage of size. 

That being said, such pattern often exhibit brief ‘kinks’ in the synoptic flow (before and behind each front), with the fetch trailing the change often just south of west (or ideally, south-west). This helps to boost size potential wing to the better alignment within our swell window. And therefore, these are the patterns we’re looking for.

The first ‘kink’ is expected to occur later Tuesday and overnight into Wednesday, which should give rise to a new southerly swell across Southern NSW throughout Wednesday. Provisional surf size is around the 3ft+ mark at south facing beaches (bigger in the Hunter).  

A stronger kink with much stronger core winds is then expected later Wednesday, and could result in a much larger south swell through Thursday - if current model guidance holds out we’ll be looking at easy 5-6ft+ sets at south facing beaches (and even bigger at offer bombies, and across the northern Hunter). But due to this system's close proximity to the mainland, we’ll have to reassess the model guidance on Monday.

The outlook beyond Thursday is for easing energy through Friday ahead of a smaller weekend of background, residual south swell. But that’s still a long time away so let’s see how things progress next week.

Have a great weekend, see you Monday!


thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Friday, 30 Sep 2016 at 4:32pm

Couple of small opportunities in the outlook. Hope you've got the fishing rods ready for Saturday though.

Stu2d2's picture
Stu2d2's picture
Stu2d2 Friday, 30 Sep 2016 at 5:00pm

So dreaming of P-pass is the best option then?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Friday, 30 Sep 2016 at 5:10pm

Well played, good sir.

Anthony 01's picture
Anthony 01's picture
Anthony 01 Friday, 30 Sep 2016 at 7:14pm

What would be the winds for that Thursday swell?

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Friday, 30 Sep 2016 at 7:33pm

Too early to be confident, but likely W tending SW maybe SSW into the afternoon.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Sunday, 2 Oct 2016 at 6:47am

A-HA! Here's the first sign of new S'ly swell. Very small but a great indication for the afternoon.

JackGregory's picture
JackGregory's picture
JackGregory Sunday, 2 Oct 2016 at 8:22am

freshie had a few in the corner, nothing special though

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Monday, 3 Oct 2016 at 7:09am

Couple of lil' leftover 1-2ft lines across the Newy stretch this morning. You can see the tiny local NE windswell delineating the S'ly groundswell in this surfcam grab.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Monday, 3 Oct 2016 at 12:49pm

This morning's small leftover south swell in Newcastle is goneski. Half a foot waves lapping at the shore.