South by south-east

Sydney, Hunter and Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 3rd June)

Best Days: Thurs: large S'ly swell though with mainly fresh S'ly winds, pockets of SW early. Fri/Sat: quality combo of easing S'ly swell and a new SE pulse, with light winds. Sun: long period S'ly swell early AM with light winds ahead of a S'ly change after lunch.

Recap: Tuesday saw building S’ly swells into the 3-4ft range at south facing beaches through the day, with W’ly winds keeping conditions nice and clean. Surprisingly larger bombs were reported at one offshore bombie late in the day though these were certainly somewhat of a regional outlier. Surf size eased a smidge this morning as expected, though we’ve seen a rapid increase in size this afternoon along with a wind shift to the south, at strength (following morning W’ly winds). South facing beaches are now in excess of 6ft and continuing to build.

Late building lines across the Manly stretch

This week (June 4 - 5)

We’re at the cusp of the next phase of south swell, which will dominate the next few days. Sourced primarily from a strong front that pushed through the lower Tasman Sea today (originating form polar latitudes), we’ll then see secondary energy from a developing Tasman Low off New Zealand’s West Coast. 

The upshot of this is an early peak in S’ly swell expected Thursday morning (6ft, maybe 6-8ft south facing beaches, much smaller elsewhere though a little bigger in the Hunter), with moderate to fresh, though easing S/SW winds. A few locations should see a morning SW, possibly W/SW flow thanks to an relaxing pressure gradient overnight, but it’ll probably be restricted to the Northern Beaches and locations south from the Illawarra. Most exposed spots will retain the bumps leftover from today’s windy conditions.

Surf size will trend down into Thursday afternoon and the swell direction will swing more S/SE into Friday, with reinforcing 4-5ft surf across most south facing beaches and a few bigger sets through the Hunter, though smaller surf on offer at beaches not directly exposed to the south. Late afternoon should see the direction trend more SE.

Friday certainly looks to be the pick of this week with light variable winds tending offshore, and therefore clean conditions just about everywhere. It'll be well worth hunting down somewhere to surf. 

This weekend (June 6-7)

One final push of energy from this weather sequence is expected from late Friday into Saturday, sourced from the core of the Tasman Low off New Zealand’s West Coast.

It’s expected to reach peak intensity on Thursday morning (see below), and although not perfectly aimed towards our region, will generate a useful spread of SE swell that should maintain 4ft sets across exposed beaches for much of Saturday, perhaps easing slightly into the afternoon. Southern ends will be smaller in size. 

Note: these numbers are higher than our surf model is predicting, and I have a feeling one or two regional swell magnets could even slightly outperform my expectations, but given the off-axis, distant swell source I’d rather be a little cautious with this one.

Conditions look excellent with light variable tending offshore winds. It should be a great day of waves almost everywhere (banks pending).

Late Saturday, the leading edge of a new long period S’ly groundswell will make landfall on the Far South Coast, having been generated by a deep though poorly aligned polar low/front well below the continent on Thursday.

There’s been a downgrade in the strength, duration and northern-extent of this system so I’m pulling back my size estimates for this swell as it reaches a peak across most coasts on Sunday morning. South facing beaches should see inconsistent 3ft+ sets though offshore bombies and other reliable south swell magnets (such as the Hunter) could see bigger waves in the 4-5ft+ range.

The main risk on Sunday will be a developing S’ly airstream as a new surface low develops off the South Coast. It appears we’ll have a decent window of light winds through the morning but any time from lunchtime onwards is at risk of becoming blown out. I'll firm up the specifics on Friday.

Next week (June 8 onwards)

Sunday’s developing surface low now looks like it’ll move to the north-east, so conditions should improve quickly though wave heights will only peak for a short period of time. 

In fact, it appears that a series of new long period S’ly swells generated by migrating polar lows below Tasmania (over the weekend) will probably be a more reliable source of S’ly swell through the first half of next week. 

More on this in Friday’s update.


NewcastleWaterman's picture
NewcastleWaterman's picture
NewcastleWaterman commented Wednesday, 3 Jun 2020 at 5:58pm

Oh yeah!!!

yodai's picture
yodai's picture
yodai commented Wednesday, 3 Jun 2020 at 7:09pm

Ben glad you mentioned “banks pending”
Hunter beaches woeful banks . 150 m deep gutters whole length of bar to Merewether
All via last big swell
I’ve heard very similar in other spots on east coast

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake commented Wednesday, 3 Jun 2020 at 7:37pm

haha yea yodai was thinking the same.

Just one look at the Newy cam proves this.
But the banks will be back, eventually.
I know a place where the bank is the best its been in 30 years.
Trouble is, so does everyone else.

scottishsponger's picture
scottishsponger's picture
scottishsponger commented Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 6:42am

Totally agree yodai. I’m over hearing people frothing about massive S swells when they’re only rideable at a few select local reefs that get rammed, then the same swell decimates the banks up and down the coast leaving the beaches unsurfable for weeks. The net result of these swells is poor to say the least.

thermalben's picture
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thermalben commented Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 6:56am

Southern NSW is an incredibly diverse coastline where each stretch has different preferences. For example, the Northern Beaches doesn't really like S swells, but loves NE swells. Cronulla loves S swells, but doesn't like NE swells. Sometimes the size/period/direction combo is perfect for one stretch, but the banks are shithouse; other times a subtle change in size/period/direction can swing a closeout session into an afternoon of incredible barrels.

There also seems to be differing opinions as to what happens to the sand setup following a large swell event. Seems to me that if the banks are good, discussion prior to the large swell is that "this swell will ruin the banks". But if the banks are shithouse, everyone assumes "this swell will finally create some good banks".

However, there's rarely any post-event discussion to confirm whether the swell event ruined previous good banks, created good banks, or didn't change anything at all. So, we never really know, apart from our own local observations. 

The comments in this thread sum up the diversity too - eel (below) reckons the banks on the Northern Beaches have "improved significantly" after the last big swell, whilst yodai and Westofthelake reckon that the Hunter has "woeful banks" from the same event.

Anyway, within a few days or a week, natural processes will have changed it all again. And there'll be another swell event to look forward to.

savanova's picture
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savanova commented Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 5:27pm

Really big NE swells trash my local beach and move the sand which sometimes takes months to come back. After the Black NEer a few years back it took nearly a year for the banks to resemble their former selves even with the winter swells. The current SE swells are changing things for the better noticeably day by day.

eel's picture
eel's picture
eel commented Wednesday, 3 Jun 2020 at 7:15pm

Northern Beaches banks near me all improved (significantly) after the last big swell. Good times

stunet's picture
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stunet commented Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 9:28am

Big ups this morning.

JDevil's picture
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JDevil commented Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 12:56pm

Wanda's banks were terrible yesterday morning. Out the back they were deeper than usual making these shit reform sets on the inside. I'm thinking most local beaches are good close to 10seconds on medium swells, 12+ is too straight and you need a good reef/rock bottom.

flow's picture
flow's picture
flow commented Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 1:53pm

Yep. Pretty rare to get a good beachie on a 10 plus period swell.

joesydney's picture
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joesydney commented Thursday, 4 Jun 2020 at 5:30pm

Surfed an Eastern Suburbs reef with 2 of us that breaks occasionally, good size and fun until a fin popped up out the back and sent us scampering back to shore. Guys on the cliffs said dolphin but I say dolphins arrive with buddies not lone soldiers...…..