Very large, very windy
Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 21st August)
Best Days: Thurs: solid from the south early, with gusty offshores. Very large from the south by late afternoon, and very windy. Fri: light winds, very large though steadily easing from the south. Sat: solid though easing, clean with offshore winds.
Recap: Moderate S’ly swells have provided a wide range in size across the coast for the last few days, up to 3-4ft at south facing beaches in Sydney, and 4-5ft across the Hunter but much smaller at other locations sheltered from the southerly swell direction. Conditions have been clean with fresh offshore winds.
This week (August 22 - 23)
No major change to the outlook for the next few days.
A vigorous frontal passage across the SE corner of the state will reach maximum strength early Thursday as a broad fetch of 50-60kt SW winds exit eastern Bass Strait (see below). They’ll be working on a very active sea state generated by strong cold fronts ahead of it.
The existing fetch should kick surf size up into the 4-6ft range at south facing beaches for Thursday morning, and conditions will be clean though blustery with gusty W’ly winds. Expect smaller surf at beaches not exposed to the south, but there’ll be bigger waves across the Hunter.
Larger, much more powerful surf from the aforementioned fetch development will push across Southern NSW mid-late morning, reaching Sydney and Hunter coasts after lunch, at the same time winds swing to the south, at strength.
The associated swell increase should push north of 10ft+ at south facing beaches by late in the day, again smaller elsewhere though larger at offshore bombies and across the Hunter (not that anywhere exposed will be handling the wind). It’ll be a wild afternoon, ideal for watching victory-at-sea conditions from the safe vantage point of your local headland.
Friday looks much better. A high pressure ridge will move in from the west, quickly relaxing the pressure gradient and bringing about lighter local winds. Surf size will ease steadily during the day; early morning could see leftover 8-10ft sets at exposed south facing beaches (same size caveats as per above) but it’ll be down to 5-6ft by the afternoon. Keep in mind there'll be a lot of water moving around on Thursday and Friday, so spend an extra fifteen minutes watching the surf before you paddle out - it'll be very easy to find yourself in trouble.
This weekend (August 24 - 25)
Saturday is the pick of the weekend, with strong though steadily easing surf and light offshore winds all day.
South facing beaches should manage early 4-5ft, maybe 4-6ft sets at south facing beaches (a little bigger in the Hunter, smaller elsewhere) though we’ll see a steep drop during the day into the 3ft+ range.
Smaller surf is expected into Sunday, though there’s still a chance for an afternoon pulse in new swell from a modest front pushing south of Tasmania into the lower Tasman Sea overnight Friday and through Saturday (Monday is a safer bet). For the most part expect tiny surf at most beaches, and inconsistent 2ft sets at south facing beaches. I’ll have a better idea on the late afternoon pulse in Friday’s notes.
Next week (August 26 onwards)
A weak trough will linger along the NSW coast on Monday, and we’ll probably be under a light to moderate southerly quadrant wind. New swell from the weekend’s frontal passage further south should provided inconsistent 2-3ft sets at south facing beaches but it’ll be slow going (the models don’t really like this swell at the moment, so confidence isn’t high). Everywhere else will be very small.
Longer term guidance is suggesting a typical migratory frontal passage across the Southern Ocean next week, supplying small, intermittent south swells. However the trough (mentioned above) will linger in the Tasman region and could evolve into a swell generating system - though it’s not yet showing any size potential.
More on this in Friday’s update.