Jittery on the periphery: small flukey south swells to continue

Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Monday 26th July)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Small tending tiny surf Tues/Wed/Thurs AM
  • Small flush of S'ly swell Thurs PM (South Coast), showing best Fri AM
  • Tiny weekend of waves, just small peripheral sources


Inconsistent S’ly swells delivered slow 2ft sets to south facing beaches on Saturday, easing back to 1ft on Sunday, though the Hunter picked up bigger waves both days (remaining locations were tiny to flat). Conditions were clean with fresh offshore winds. Similar conditions have persisted today as a new S’ly swell has built to 2-3ft across south facing beaches, with the odd larger set across the Hunter region. 

This week (July 27 - 30)

Look, there’s really not much to get excited about this week.

The Southern Ocean storm track remains very strong, but it’s riding quite north in latitude, across the southern states. Being detatched from polar latitudes, this means each amplifying node of the Long Wave Trough has a shorter upstream fetch length within our swell window when it pushes east of Tasmania.

To recap on other sources: a small but intense polar low well south of Tasmania over the weekend displayed a fetch of 50kts winds on its western flank, except these winds were (unusually) S/SE in direction, aimed back up into SA and Victoria. We may see a small sideband pulse of S’ly swell later Tues/Wed but I think this won’t really amount to much surf for Southern NSW. 

So, expect very small conditions for the next two days with light NW winds Tuesday, maybe some minor leftovers from today at south swell magnets like the Hunter, early Tuesday morning. Winds will freshen Wednesday as a front approaches from the west, and the surf will be tiny.

In fact, pre-frontal N/NW winds off Northern NSW late Tuesday and into Wednesday may generate some minor N’ly swell for a handful of north-facing swell magnets (probably south from Sydney) on Wednesday and Thursday. But this is a very unusual, flukey swell source and is not worth worrying too much about. 

The main feature this week will be post-frontal W/SW gales exiting eastern Bass Strait from early Thursday morning onwards. They’re expected to set up a fresh pulse of S’ly swell for Southern NSW, though once again it’ll only favour south swell magnets. And, the timing isn’t great - during this winter period, we lose some 3-4 hours of sunlight each afternoon (compared to summer) so late-arriving swells are a curse to your surfing calendar.

The leading edge of this swell is expected to glance the South Coast around lunchtime or early afternoon Thursday, and it should nose into Sydney mid-late afternoon, but there may not be enough time for a late session. As such, Friday morning is your best chance for a paddle - this energy will peak overnight and then trend down through the day, but the early session should offer 2-3ft sets at south facing beaches, pushing 3-4ft across the Hunter, gradually easing through the day.

However, expect much smaller surf at beaches not open to the south. Conditions will be clean both days with moderating W/SW winds Thursday tending light NW on Friday.

This weekend (Aug 1 - 2)

Model guidance is split on how the Thurs/Fri frontal passage will evolve across the Tasman Sea. 

It’s expected to form a reasonable Tasman Low on Friday, aimed away from our region, however the low may stall in its eastwards track which - along with the southerly extent of its fetch reaching south to almost Tasmanian latitudes - may just sit inside our swell window enough to allow for a minor spread of SE swell back into the coast.

But I gotta say, even by my standards that’s one heck of a positive interpretation on what’s otherwise a synoptic chart suggesting nothing more than a weekend of near-flat conditions.

Clean all 'round though, with moderate winds out of the NW and W. 

Oh, there’s one other swell source due this weekend and next week too: a stationary tropical depression way out near Tahiti over the last few days (see below) is generating some minor E/NE swell that may just stop the swell magnets from becoming completely flat. 

There ya go: two positive spins for one weekend! 

Don’t expect to be surfing though.


Next week (Aug 3 onwards)

There’s a wide range of interesting model output for next week, throwing up a couple of potential swell scenarios. 

But in all honesty, I can’t see much more than a continuation of this strong Southern Ocean frontal cycle across the southern states, resulting in yet more flukey south swells for our region. 

The long range E/NE swell (mentioned above for the weekend) should also continue to trickle along for most of next week, but the large travel distance and the partial shadowing from New Zealand will probably cap wave heights at an inconsisent 1-2ft. Though, sometimes these kinds of swells can over-deliver (just slightly), so don't rule it out completely.

More on this in Wednesday’s update.


Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67's picture
Surfalot67 Monday, 26 Jul 2021 at 6:11pm

Wrong region legend

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Monday, 26 Jul 2021 at 6:48pm

Argh, soz.

FrazP's picture
FrazP's picture
FrazP Monday, 26 Jul 2021 at 6:17pm

2-3ft south facing beaches today? Must have missed this neck of the woods as Cronulla was miniscule. 1ft and great for the kids. Needed to pull the 9ft mal out to catch anything. Not looking good for the lockdown over the next week, but it's hard to complain with the run we've had lately.

see.saw's picture
see.saw's picture
see.saw Tuesday, 27 Jul 2021 at 8:44pm

Fuck! NZs east coast would be pumping! Let’s go! Oh…

ODeals's picture
ODeals's picture
ODeals Tuesday, 27 Jul 2021 at 9:33pm

To me, this winter seems to be the worst for waves I can remember. Feels like we haven’t had anywhere near the amount of sizey swells as usual. Does anyone have a metereological explanation on the cause of this, or is it just bad luck?

MrBungle's picture
MrBungle's picture
MrBungle Tuesday, 27 Jul 2021 at 9:44pm

I would say it has been pretty consistent and decent with lots of swells with east in them which is favourable for most areas. We haven’t had big long period south ground swells this year, the roaring 40’s hasn’t been as active for some reason.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Wednesday, 28 Jul 2021 at 5:54am

Huh? Besides the last two weeks, it's been one one of the best winters in ages (excluding last year). If it weren't for last year, the best in years. So much east swell.

I guess it depends where you're surfing etc, but the Northern Beaches have been non-stop pumping.

FrazP's picture
FrazP's picture
FrazP Wednesday, 28 Jul 2021 at 8:38am

Agree with you Craig. Been great.

ODeals's picture
ODeals's picture
ODeals Wednesday, 28 Jul 2021 at 10:34am

Fair call, I’m in Newy, which doesn’t cop the East swells as well as Sydney. It was the lack of South swells I was referring to I suppose.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Wednesday, 28 Jul 2021 at 6:00pm

Ah there we go, yep.

sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Wednesday, 28 Jul 2021 at 7:44am

Centy coast with the east swells been really good.. surfed most days ..