Weak swells, weak winds for the ‘weak’end

James KC


Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by James Casey (issued Friday 26th February)

Best Days: Saturday/Sunday with light winds and 2ft+ of combo of weak swells. Wednesday 4-6ft S/SE groundswell although winds persistent S/SE. Friday better option with smaller swell but better winds.


  • Quiet weekend of waves with a few small swells combining to deliver 2ft+ waves, 2-3ft for the Hunter
  • S/SE swell Tuesday with S change moving through early and continuing into the middle of the week initial 3-5ft wind swell with larger 4-6ft S groundswell pulse on Wednesday
  • Swell hanging in around the 3-5ft mark although with persistent moderate S/SE winds
  • Winds ease Friday ahead of another strong S change and another pulse of decent S/SE swell for the following weekend


That E/NE swell certainly packed a punch yesterday with some solid 3-5ft waves in the Illawarra, more like 3-4ft for Sydney and the Hunter. It certainly exceeded my expectations of a 2-3ft pulse. 

There are two reasons this happened. First of all, the infeed of NE winds ahead of the trough were stronger than forecast. 

Secondly, and probably more importantly, it combined with that E/SE swell that I assumed would have been a distance memory. The low from earlier in the week continued to deliver a decent amount of energy out of the E/SE and create an active sea state. The additional 2-3ft, 3ft for the Illawarra, from the E/NE meant the swell combined with the lingering 2-3ft of E/SE swell and gave us a nice 3-5ft swell.

This morning, we saw that E/SE swell finally subside for the Illawarra and Sydney while the Hunter received the last of it. It meant all we saw was the remaining 2ft of E/NE swell for the Sydney and the Illawarra, while the Hunter got it’s last bit of E/SE swell combining with 2ft E/NE swell.

The light winds ahead of the S change meant there were nice conditions for most of the morning. That sunrise too, how good. I hope you managed to get out there.

The S change swung winds SW early but didn’t really fill in with more S in it until the mid morning. Winds eased and went more SE into the afternoon. 

Into the Weekend

The 2ft E/NE swell will be inconsistent tomorrow (Saturday) morning, while a new S/SE swell begins to make its presence felt into the afternoon. Don’t expect too much from this new swell though it’ll be 2ft+, a little bigger for the Hunter, let’s call it 2-3ft. 

This new pulse of swell will be generated by a trough and low out in the Tasman, associated with Friday’s S change. Again nothing of any decent magnitude just 2ft of S/SE swell filling in late Saturday, peaking overnight and beginning to slowly ease by Sunday. The Hunter will see this peak early Sunday rather than overnight.

This S/SE swell will combine with a weak E trade swell setup delivering an additional 2ft and filling in the gap once the S/SE swell fades out on Sunday afternoon. 

Winds will be light and variable for most of the weekend. Early tomorrow (Saturday) will have a little left over lumpiness from today’s S change but it’ll be clean enough before a light NE sea breeze puffs up in the afternoon. 

Sunday morning will be a bit cleaner with a stronger afternoon NE seabreeze. All in all small waves and light winds for the weekend. A more summery vibe with fun waves along the open beaches. 

Worth mentioning is the morning high tide. The best winds will coincide with a high tide that will drown most banks rendering them fat and slow at best. We saw that this morning (Friday) and we actually had a bit more swell to play with. A fish, mid length or basically anything with a bit of volume will be best suited. 

The New Week

Not much action for the start of the week. There’ll just be the easing SE swell, weak E trade swell and a very weak NE wind swell from the indeed of NE winds ahead of a stronger S change. All of that will amount to 2ft+ of weak waves along the coast. With light winds ahead of an afternoon NE seabreeze it’ll have a summery vibe. 

The S change will move through overnight making for a bumpy morning on Tuesday. This S change will be stronger as an associated low squeezes isobars against the coast. 

Initially it’ll whip up 3-4ft of S/SE wind swell getting closer to 5ft by the end of the day. With strong S/SE winds you’ll be limited to protected southern corners where less swell will be getting in. 

By Wednesday a longer period S groundswell will fill in. This swell will be generated by persistent gales on the north west flank of a low in the southern Tasman on Monday. Expect a solid 4-6ft to fill in across the region, a bit larger for the Hunter. 

The swell will be accompanied by moderate S/SE winds keeping you confined to southern corners where there's a bit less size. Go suss out a bank in the protection of a headland or hit your favourite southern point. Otherwise try early for a bit more size when winds are a bit lighter but expect some lumpiness if you’re not in a southern corner. 

Winds will ease by Thursday, swinging around to the NE ahead of yet another S change on Friday. This one looks like it’ll pack a bit of a punch as well with another decent S/SE groundswell thanks to persistent gales aimed along our coast. A high centred to the west of Tasmania will have a ridge funnelling strong S winds towards our coastline and delivering another decent S/SE groundswell for Saturday.

That’s a while away though so let’s keep an eye on it. For now enjoy the summer-like weekend ahead of you. 


greatcircle's picture
greatcircle's picture
greatcircle Friday, 26 Feb 2021 at 3:57pm

Hi James, could you give a bit more explanation on how the active sea state from different directions ie; ESE and ENE combined to give the larger than estimated size. I always thought that the effect on an active sea state had to be in much the same direction to be effective.
I was surprised to see the size on Thursday morning and the only explanation I could come up with was that the reasonable strong ENE fetch was a distance offshore with little wind on the coast. The strongest part of this fetch seemed to be aimed at the Illawarra. Seems I was wrong in my understanding.

James KC's picture
James KC's picture
James KC Monday, 1 Mar 2021 at 11:23am

No you are correct in your assumption of swells needing to be in a similar direction to give larger swells under an active sea state. There was an underlying 2-3ft of E/NE swell out there as well. All in all the Tasman was active.

The stronger than forecast ENE winds off the coast also assisted but it wouldn't matter if the winds were strong on the coast or not for the size of the swell, obviously it was nice winds weren't strong on the coast as it provided nice clean conditions. 

greatcircle's picture
greatcircle's picture
greatcircle Monday, 1 Mar 2021 at 12:47pm

Thanks James

Mcface's picture
Mcface's picture
Mcface Friday, 26 Feb 2021 at 5:51pm

Nice one Jimbo, good forecast mate. Here's hoping I time the next run of swell better than the last.

I'm sure anyone who managed to get out yesterday were fine with the swell being undercalled. Won't hold it against you!

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer Friday, 26 Feb 2021 at 7:40pm

Yesterday was excellent a lot bigger than I expected which was really great
not as solid or as good as Mondays fantastic waves but unexpected super fun.

sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Friday, 26 Feb 2021 at 8:43pm

lovin ya work jimbo had two days of crackin waves ,definitely bigger/better than forecast..over the moon when accidentally under forecasted and get that instead

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Sunday, 28 Feb 2021 at 9:01am

Haven't looked at the charts for a week or so, but looks like there might be a sneaky long period S'ly swell arriving this afternoon that'll brush the exposed parts of the NSW coast through into Monday. This energy reached the SA/Vic coasts overnight (peak swell periods of 20 seconds), and looks like it may have just snuck into our acute south swell window - to the south-west of West Oz!

See charts below: first image shows surface winds last Wednesday, second image is a Great Circle path, showing the straight line for a W/NW fetch that ends up pushing SW through the Tasman Sea.

Hard to be confident on size, and it'll be terribly inconsistent, but south swell magnets (Newy etc) could push well overhead at times.

science's picture
science's picture
science Sunday, 28 Feb 2021 at 2:53pm

that does my head in

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Sunday, 28 Feb 2021 at 2:56pm

It's only science, science.

science's picture
science's picture
science Sunday, 28 Feb 2021 at 3:03pm

hahaha yeah I get it. But I think being accustomed to 2D maps makes it seem trippy. So cool though

belly's picture
belly's picture
belly Sunday, 28 Feb 2021 at 3:24pm

The first comment in the notes came from greatcircle, accidental coincidence, I wonder..

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Monday, 1 Mar 2021 at 7:48am

As per James' forecast most beaches are seeing small weak leftovers this morning. But that glancing long period south swell I mentioned above - which nudged Tp at a few NSW buoys to around 19 seconds late Sunday - is showing across the Newy stretch (see surfcam images below, old mate taking off on a fatburger then pulling into the inside closeout). Super inconsistent though.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Monday, 1 Mar 2021 at 8:00am

Here's a slightly bigger set breaking on the outer bank.

brownie48's picture
brownie48's picture
brownie48 Monday, 1 Mar 2021 at 10:59am

There were some really strong inconsistent lines out of the south on the incoming tide at a south friendly.

Good call Ben