Large, windy surf ahead for the Sydney region

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Ben Matson (thermalben)

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

Best Days: No great days due to poor winds. Water quality is going to be pretty suss too, thanks to all of the run-off. Maybe Tues/Wed for smaller, lumpy leftovers. 

Recap: Thursday saw solid E/NE swell and mainly onshore winds. The trough ended up moving a lot more slowly to the south than Wednesday’s models had anticipated, so we saw poor conditions all day - winds didn’t shift NW across the Sydney region until about 9pm. Interestingly (due to the complex nature of the trough, and an associated developing low), the Illawarra saw strong southerly winds kick in around 8pm. This preceded a strong southerly airstream that’s dominated mthe region today. There’s still around 3ft of leftover E/NE swell but we’ve seen a rapid increase in short range S’ly swell with south facing beaches now seeing 4-6ft sets. 

This weekend (Mar 18th - 19th)

We’ve got a wild weekend of wind, rain and large surf ahead. 

A broad trough across the greater NSW coast extends out from the North Coast into the Northern Tasman Sea. Although we’re seeing strong southerly winds and building southerly windswell today, this source will abate overnight as the primary focus of the trough extends to an E’ly dip SW of New Caledonia, moving westwards towards the mainland.

I’ve been monitoring and discussing this system in detail over the last week or so, but mainly with regards to SE Qld as the models have been favouring an alignment towards this region. 

However since yesterday they have started to push its track more to the south, and in the latest runs it appears it’s going to push headlong into the lower Mid North Coast on Saturday, with E’ly gales and large building swells (and a lotta rain).

Thanks to a strong supporting high pressure system to the south, we’ll concurrently see a strong E’ly fetch across the central Tasman Sea and this will generate large wave heights for the Southern NSW coast this weekend - a major upgrade from what was anticipated earlier in the week. However in reality the forecast is exactly what has been expected for the Far Northern NSW coast since last Monday - it’s just been shunted southwards by some five hundred kilometres. 

Unfortunately, there won’t be anywhere to hide from the wind this weekend. Strong SE winds will veer E’ly through Saturday, reaching a peak Saturday night before backing to the E/NE into Sunday and slowly easing in strength.

As for size, exposed beaches should reach anywhere between 6-8ft but only a handful of flukey, well protected locations will have anything rideable. Expect maximum wave heights later Saturday and/or possibly early Sunday, with a slight easing trend later that afternoon as the wind eases off.

On the whole I really can’t see anything being worthwhile.

Next week (Mar 20th onwards)

A broad inland trough across the eastern states this weekend will shift slowly eastwards early next week, maintaining a broad E/NE infeed across the coast on Monday before winds become lighter, possibly variable into Tuesday and early Wednesday

Although the fetch trailing out into the Tasman won’t be terribly strong, it will be quite long and stationary and this should maintain 4ft+ sets on Monday morning, easing during the day, down to about 3ft by Tuesday morning and then 2-3ft on Wednesday. Without a synoptic offshore to clean up the chop, surface conditions will improve only slowly though we should see OK conditions throughout parts of Tuesday and Wednesday morning

A broad NE fetch will remain active off the North Coast through the middle of the week and we should see small NE surf persisting through Thursday (2ft+ NE facing beaches) however the trough is expected to intensify a low in the Southern Tasman Sea overnight Wednesday, driving strong to gale force S/SE winds across Southern NSW on Thursday. This should kick up a south swell in the 5-6ft+ range for Thursday and Friday though local winds once again look problematic. 

Looking further ahead, and this Tasman Low looks like it’ll remain a dominant feature for a few days, though if it hangs across the Central/Northern regions (as is modelled) then local winds may remain unfavourable across Southern NSW into next weekend. However there certainly won’t be any shortage of surf - you may just have to consider a road trip down south, as such a setup would result in lighter synoptic winds with increasing southerly latitude. 

Anyway this is still quite some time away - let’s see how the models are evolving on Monday. 

Have a great weekend!


thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Monday, 20 Mar 2017 at 7:33am

Might be a dog's breakfast across the Sydney region, but Newy is looking somewhat workable this AM.