Tricky weekend of waves; small surf for the foreseeable future

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 17th February)

Best Days: Sat: fun peaky NE swell early morning (Sydney/Hunter only) before the S'ly kicks in. Tues: Fun S'ly swell with light winds. 

Recap: A small mix of easing and new S’ly swell provided 2ft waves across south facing beaches on Thursday, though sets were slow and inconsistent. Today we’ve seen building NE windswell into the 3ft range at NE facing beaches though conditions are bumpy with moderate cross-shore winds from the NNE. 

This weekend (Feb 18th - 19th)

A trough will pass across the region overnight bringing a temporary though initially moderate to fresh southerly change to Southern NSW.

This change is expected to reach the Illawarra in the early hours of Saturday morning and then push into Sydney a few hours after dawn (give or take; earlier in the Shire, later on the Northern Beaches) before slowly reaching the Hunter before lunch and then petering out into the afternoon under a moderate SE flow.

Ahead of the change winds will be swing moderate NW though only the Hunter and (possibly) Sydney regions are likely to experience this brief window of favourable winds. 

The current NE flow off the coast will continue to generate NE swell into Saturday; in fact the advancing trough will push the fetch back across the Mid North Coast - just outside our swell window but still within striking distance to allow for small waves to continue through Sunday, following an early Saturday morning peak in size. 

NE facing beaches should see 2-3ft+ sets Saturday morning with good options from Sydney to the Hunter for the dawn patrol, but once the southerly kicks in only southern corners will have anything worthwhile. Expect easing size into the afternoon though still somewhere in the 2ft+ range at NE facing beaches.

Also, keep in mind that the northern Hunter region often sees smaller surf from these sources due to the shadowing effects of the Hunter curve under short range NE windswell events. 

Otherwise, the surf will be smaller at south facing beaches - the initial developing S’ly fetch won’t be enough to generate much more than a weak 0.5-1ft of southerly windswell by the afternoon

However, a small S’ly groundswell originating from a distant polar fetch is expected in the water throughout the day, possibly generating some inconsistent 2ft+ sets at south swell magnets by the afternoon though there’ll be a horribly long wait between waves. With the onshore breeze it really won’t be too worthwhile.

On Sunday, a stronger S’ly fetch wrapping around the still-somewhat stationary trough will envelop much of the region, creating poor conditions at most beaches though also contributing some small S’ly windswell to south facing beaches. And, Saturday’s small distant S’ly groundswell should also be present in the water though easing in size.

As such we should see 2-3ft sets at south swell magnets; elsewhere there’s likely to be a trickle of leftover NE windswell in the 1-2ft range. 

Next week (Feb 20th onwards)

Well, the models had been hinting at two major regions of swell production for early next week, but in classic fashion they’ve both been majorly downgraded in the latest model runs. 

The weekend’s trough will evolve into a broad low pressure system in the Lower Tasman Sea on Monday, however it looks like it’ll have a couple of centres, neither of which may end up having much strength within our swell window for enough to time to generate any meaningful energy. Had the low been positioned closer to the mainland, it'd be a different story, but this system looks like it'll be far away and travelling unfavourably SE through the swell window.

Therefore, our southerly swell sources for the early to middle part of next week are somewhat on the small side: Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday are probably the pick at the moment, maybe some 3ft sets at south facing beaches.

There’s a chance for an upgrade if the models change the configuration of the low but right now I’m keeping my expectations in check,  

Otherwise, a broad interaction between a large tropical depression and an oversized South Pacific high pressure system east of New Zealand now looks like it’ll form a decent easterly fetch… inside the swell shadow of New Zealand. This still has some potential for SE Qld and perhaps Far Northern NSW, but Southern NSW is unlikely to see any action.

And unfortunately that’s about it. We don’t have any major signs of swell activity for the entire week so let’s check back on Monday to see if there’s anything lining up for the long term period. 

Have a good weekend, see you Monday!


alexsmith1's picture
alexsmith1's picture
alexsmith1 Sunday, 19 Feb 2017 at 3:55pm

Ben do you think we will see 2ft waves at south facing beaches for dawn patrol tomorrow? Thanks.