Patchy outlook with flukey south swells at best

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Friday 23rd July)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Tiny, windy weekend of waves, maybe a small S'ly swell at swell magnets Sat PM and perhaps early Sun
  • Fun S'ly swell for south facing beaches Mon, best for the Hunter
  • Small S'ly swell late Thurs/Fri


Easing S’ly swells created a wide range in wave heights on Thursday owing to the steep direction. Some south facing beaches saw 4-5ft sets on Thursday morning with bigger waves across the Hunter, but it was much smaller at beaches not open to the south, and size eased further during the day. Early W/NW winds swung N’ly through the afternoon. Today has seen smaller surf in the 2-3ft range at south facing beaches (slight bigger in the Hunter), plus some minor N’ly windswell. Winds have been generally light though holding from the north. 

This weekend (July 24 - 25)

Not much to look forward to this weekend.

Model guidance still has a small flukey S’ly groundswell glancing the eastern extremities of the coast through the day - probably not reaching Sydney until late morning, then pulsing through the afternoon before fading overnight and slowly through Sunday morning. 

This swell was generated by a very powerful polar low (hence the chance for 15-16 peak swell periods) however it was poorly aligned so I’m really not confident we’ll see much size. Perhaps the Hunter’s south swell magnets will squeeze out a few stray 2-3ft sets later Saturday (smaller earlier) and at a pinch, early Sunday, but expect smaller surf south from here; most beaches across Southern NSW will be very small. Expect easing size through Sunday from whatever makes landfall Saturday afternoon. 

Conditions will be blustery all weekend as a series of vigorous fronts cross the south-eastern corner of the country. 

The only other swell worth mentioning for the weekend is a small E/NE swell generated last weekend way out near Tahiti by a large, slow moving high pressure system. Ordinarily these kinds of systems aren’t worth looking at, but in the absence of any major swell this weekend it may just keep open beaches rideable for the grommets with inconsistent 1.5ft sets.

On the balance, keep your expectations very low.

Next week (July 26 onwards)

Once again, the weekend's strong frontal progression will be detached from polar latitudes, so we’re looking at another spell of small conditions interspersed with flukey south swells.

W/SW gales exiting eastern Bass Strait on Sunday (see below) will generate a brief flush of south swell for Monday that should nudge 2-3ft at south facing beaches and 3-4ft+ across the Hunter swell magnets, but the acute direction will once again exaggerate the size loss at protected southern corners, which will remain tiny. So, expect a smaller number of beaches than normal to have rideable options. Wave heights will ease rapidly into Tuesday.

Note: core winds associated with this front are expected to be very strong, so theoretically wave heights could be higher than this, but I’m keeping a level head due to the strong westerly component in the fetch. It's not a high confidence swell event. 

Conditions should be a little more workable on Monday too, as the offshore breeze eases back a touch.

The Southern Ocean storm track will then remain well and truly aligned outside of our swell window for a few days, until another front crosses the region on Wednesday (see below), extending W/SW gales through eastern Bass Strait into Thursday morning. This may set up a brief flush of south swell for late Thursday and Friday though it’s like to be smaller than Monday’s south swell (from the same region). 

As for other swell sources - a deep polar low off the ice shelf this weekend (see above) looks like it’ll be aimed a little west of our swell window, which is unusual. It’s a reasonable system and may provide some small sideband energy mid week (models are picking up a foot of S/SW swell at 13 seconds around Wednesday) but in general isn’t worth worrying about.

Otherwise, the longer term outlook maintains a similar strong zonal flow across the south-eastern corner of the country, suggesting mainly small conditions will persist with occasional minor southerly pulses.

A stationary tropical depression out in the Tahitiion region of the South Pacific (see below) looks like remaining anchored from this weekend through much of next week, so we may see some small but long-lived E/NE swell through the end of next week, persisting for a week or so.

And, a more significant trough is expected to develop south of Fiji later next week that could provide a solid E/NE swell early for NSW during the following week but this is still some time away and will require close monitoring over the coming days. 

Have a great weekend, see you Monday!


Justonemore's picture
Justonemore's picture
Justonemore Friday, 23 Jul 2021 at 7:32pm

Cheers always look forward to your forecasts, not what I wanted to hear in this one but always good reading. Thanks.

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Friday, 23 Jul 2021 at 7:35pm

Think of the positives: there's never a better time to have an average surf forecast, than during a Covid lockdown.

mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner's picture
mibs-oner Friday, 23 Jul 2021 at 7:41pm

I beg to differ on that! I’d say most tradies do too. Banks are cooked from the other week anyway

Anthony Gale's picture
Anthony Gale's picture
Anthony Gale Friday, 23 Jul 2021 at 8:00pm

Not when you live in an unlocked area that’s finally not being raped by blow ins

joesydney's picture
joesydney's picture
joesydney Friday, 23 Jul 2021 at 7:44pm

Let me summarise…..crowded and small…..

scottishsponger's picture
scottishsponger's picture
scottishsponger Friday, 23 Jul 2021 at 9:27pm

Let me summarise (your comment)….I live in Sydney, whinge whinge whinge. The Hunter will have waves all weekend and isn’t in lockdown (yet)

sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Friday, 23 Jul 2021 at 8:27pm

Inconsistent covid crowded small surf ... three of my least favourite things.. could be worse, completely flat.. after the run of waves we’ve had the past month or so can’t really complain..

evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer Friday, 23 Jul 2021 at 9:14pm

The swell train had to end one day we had a exceptional run not as good
as last year although very good. Now I want to go back to work.

SimonJ's picture
SimonJ's picture
SimonJ Friday, 23 Jul 2021 at 9:16pm

Thursday morning was awesome so Iam happy.

see.saw's picture
see.saw's picture
see.saw Friday, 23 Jul 2021 at 9:17pm

Finally get some chores done

sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Saturday, 24 Jul 2021 at 6:17pm

Couple of small swells in the water this arvo.. definitely way better than expected.. clean fun 2 the odd 3ft wave ..