Solid E swell but onshore winds for the weekend

James KC

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by James Casey (issued Friday 19th March)

Best Days: Biggest on Sunday morning, cleanest on Tuesday and Wednesday.


  • Mid period E swell to build towards the weekend pulsing late Saturday into Sunday morning. Slow downward trend into the new week. 
  • Winds will be E/NE and fresh to strong. Brace yourself for a bumpy to choppy weekend of waves. 
  • Local NE swell peaking Tuesday, biggest for the Illawarra and adding to the lingering E swell.
  • Tuesday and Wednesday look to have the cleanest conditions ahead of a S change.
  • Local S swell and S winds to end the week


Well what an interesting couple of days it has been. There’s been a few windows of opportunity between the howling onshore winds and there’s been no shortage of swell. 

Wednesday was solid with that long period S swell delivering the goods. Unfortunately the winds didn’t play along so the 4-6ft waves were mostly wasted unless you found a pocket either side of a squall, a protected corner or were using the mid to power you. 

Yesterday there was far less energy in the water, the period fell away and while there were still waves out there it felt like a lot less energy in the water. The wind died off in the afternoon and even went offshore for a brief window as the swell pulsed late and heavy rain and thunderstorms moved in.  There were some lumpy yet very surfable waves to be had if you found yourself at the right place at the right time but water quality was an issue as almost everywhere from Kiama to Newcastle saw at least 40mm, with the Central Coast receiving over 100mm in a few inland locations. 

Into the weekend

Today winds are back out of the ESE with choppy 3-5ft waves, up around 6ft for the Hunter and more like 3-4ft for the Illawarra. It’s looking to stay that way for most of today as a larger and more E swell pulses into the weekend. 

This E/SE swell we are experiencing at the moment was generated by strong E/SE winds west of NZ’s North Island. It will sustain the current wave heights into this evening before a larger pulse begins to build tomorrow morning. This second pulse will bring larger waves due to the longer fetch as well as stronger, more persistent and more widespread winds generated to the NE of the NZ’s North Island. 

The peak will be on Sunday morning with waves hitting the 5-6ft mark for Sydney and the Illawarra, larger for the Hunter with waves up around 6ft+ with some larger 8ft sets. If you are after the size get in early as there’ll be a downward trend throughout the day. 

Again winds aren’t going to be great as the coastal trough pinches the strong ridge of high pressure and means we will continue to see strong E to E/SE winds today, tending more E/NE into the weekend. Saturday looks to be the windiest day of the next few before finally there is a slight easing trend late on Sunday afternoon.

Rain wise there shouldn’t be too many heavy falls today but Saturday and Sunday are looking to be torrential with wide spread totals of 60mm for tomorrow and around 30-40mm for Sydney and the Illawarra on Sunday. Water quality is going to be an issue so take that into consideration when heading out. The rain could also present some opportunity for some cleaner waves too, either side of the squalls could see lighter winds so less choppy and more lumpy conditions are possible. 

The new week

We will continue to see the downward trend in wave heights into the new week but there’ll still be some solid waves around, 4-5ft for the Hunter and 3-4ft for Sydney and the Illawarra. 

A new more NE swell will begin to build on Tuesday as winds out to sea finally start to swing away from the easterly flow. This is thanks to blocking the high over Tassie starting to move east and the coastal trough edging further south. 

Waves out of the NE will be largest for the Illawarra, with the longest fetch of the NE feed in ahead of the approaching cool change. It’ll peak on Tuesday afternoon up around 4ft for the Illawarra more like 3ft elsewhere with it mixed in alongside the easing E swell from the weekend.

Along the coast I wouldn’t expect clean conditions on Monday but on Tuesday you could begin to see cleaner conditions as the day goes on and winds swing around to the W/NW. Wednesday will see winds will stay out of the W with a bit of SW in them. It’s looking light and variable offshore for most of the day.

Conditions will again be clean on Thursday morning ahead of a cooler S change around the middle of the day.

This change will bring a modest S swell with it, nothing of note. Generally it’ll be smaller from Thursday onwards with a slight S pulse with the S wind on Friday afternoon into Saturday. Let’s call it 2-3ft at S facing beaches. We will reassess it on Monday though. Until then good luck with this E swell for the weekend, hope you find some cleaner conditions. 


Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Sunday, 21 Mar 2021 at 5:44pm

First weekend I haven't surfed in maybe a year? (besides snow trips).

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake Sunday, 21 Mar 2021 at 6:25pm

That's way cool Craig.
As a person who openly admits to living life vicariously through you, I trust that this sort of behaviour will cease to continue in the future ;)
Probs a bit wet for canyoning to eh?!

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Sunday, 21 Mar 2021 at 7:24pm

Oh man, I couldn't even imagine what some of those canyons and waterfalls would be doing. Very scary!

Mark.Fletcher's picture
Mark.Fletcher's picture
Mark.Fletcher Monday, 22 Mar 2021 at 7:48am

@James KC I think you under cooked the rainfall totals a little!