Solid spike of winter S swell for Thurs/Fri

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Monday 2nd August)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Small flush of NE windswell Tues, easing rapidly through the PM.
  • Minor long range E/NE swell Tues, increasing fractionally Wed/Thurs
  • Building S'ly swell Wed PM, peaking Thurs with chance for some strong sets, size holding Fri morning before easing.
  • Fun residual S swell Sat with reinforcing pulse PM.
  • Possible long period S swell pulse Sun PM/Mon.


As expected the weekend was a very uninspiring affair with tiny waves both days only offering up just rideable waves on lower tides on big boards. Conditions were clean enough both days with light NW breezes lingering through the morning. A slight increase in S swell today has bumped up size marginally but we’re still only talking fun board waves at exposed S magnets. Newcastle had a bit more size this morning- enough to ride a shortboard- but bump from an overnight S’ly change meant quality was very ordinary.

This week (Aug 2 - 6)

Not much change expected from Fridays forecast. The weekend ASCAT (satellite windspeed) passes from the large low pressure gyre north of New Zealand looked healthy with areas of storm force winds embedded in a long, thin fetch of gales to severe gales. The issue was the fetch rapidly moving away through the swell window and into the swell shadow of the North Island. There’s reasonable confidence the fetch was semi-stationary for the better part of 24 hrs which leads to confidence the resultant E swell might punch at weight or slightly above. That would indicate some 2ft sets from the ENE building through Tuesday, most likely through the a’noon with the size holding into Wed and tailing off through Thurs.

Tuesday’s increase is likely to be puffed up by a brief flare up of pre-frontal N’ly winds from the early hours of Tuesday morning before an arriving cold front pushes W’ly winds across most of NSW. If you can time the wind change you’ll find some NE windswell running down the beach, rapidly easing as the fetch migrates E and W’ly winds iron out the short period swell. Combined with the longer period ENE swell it’s definitely worth a shot at some small, fun running lefts.

As mentioned on Friday the main feature of the synoptics this week is a series of cold fronts pushing across NSW and a complex Tasman low expected to form E of Tasmania overnight Tuesday. The evolution of this pattern has stayed stable all weekend with successive model runs pushing an initial cold front with W/SW gales out of Bass Strait overnight Tuesday into early Wed morning. That lends high confidence to the first flush of refracted S swell showing at S magnets in Sydney in the 2ft range later Wed and Hunter shortly after, with some extra size due to the greater exposure to directional S swells. With brisk W’ly winds on offer it’ll be well worth keeping an eye on the mid-arvo to late session as the swell fills in.

Thursday is a much better bet for a more solid spike in S swell. A series of severe gale force SW fetches slingshot around the eastern flank of the low, tracking NE into the Tasman and generating several S swell pulses, with the initial spike likely to be in the water first light Thursday in the 4-5ft range, 4-6ft on the Hunter coastline. Expect another spike late in the day, possibly building on dark. 

The lifecycle of the low (before it gets whisked away to the E) plays out slightly more slowly than Fridays Forecast notes, which is great news for surfers. That lends high confidence to solid surf in the 4-5ft range holding into Friday morning, with continuing W’ly through WSW’ly winds slackening into lunch-time with a possible late, light Seabreeze not affecting surface quality too much. By Fri lunch-time an easing trend will be underway but there should be plenty of leftover juice to round out the working week if you can get there by close of play.

This weekend (Aug 7-8).

More S swell on offer this weekend as the Southern Ocean storm track remains extremely active and a  deep polar low becomes slow moving in Tasmanian longitudes. Another cold front pushes a fetch of WSW gales through Bass Strait Fri, not quite as vigorous as Tuesdays front but with an already active sea state thats expected to produce another small pulse of S swell later Sat. Residual S swell from the previous swell is expected to hold surf in the 3ft range and with more W’ly winds and possibly light NE seabreezes on offer there’ll be plenty of options available. 

Sunday is a much trickier beast. Wave models aren’t showing much favour for the vast fetch below Tasmania extending to well below 50S due to the fact the winds are aimed at targets at the other end of the Tasman sea pipe (primarily New Zealand and Fiji) but it’s likely we’ll see long period S swell refract from the source fetch into NSW, during Sun. With a regime of light land and seabreezes expected at this stage it might be well worth clearing a window for your favourite S facing beach  Sun. At any rate, there’ll be enough S swell energy in the water to produce some fun waves Sun.

Next week (Aug 9 onwards).

Fill up with what you can from the upcoming series of S swells later this week and over the weekend. The slow moving polar low dissipates on the weekend, possibly producing a flukey SE swell Mon or Tues Aug 10 as the remnants of a final cold front track towards New Zealand- at this stage the fetch looks poorly aligned- but the trend will be downwards from there with weak high pressure becoming stationary in the central/northern Tasman and effectively shutting the S swell window. That suggests a very low energy period from Tues next week, likely up until the end of the week at least. More on this in Wednesdays notes. For now, clear some windows for the end of the week/weekend.


evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 5:31pm

thats good news im just about over riding my foamy

StillStoked's picture
StillStoked's picture
StillStoked Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 9:18pm

Hahaha. Word.

sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 6:11pm

Drinking way too much with lockdown and no waves lately.. definitely need routine again.. work.. surf.. drink ... not just drink drink drink .. cheers for the early report.. hanging to rip back into it ..

Mcface's picture
Mcface's picture
Mcface Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 6:36pm

Good report Steve. All we got with Ben was 1ft S swells, glad to see you could bring a bit more size to the table

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 6:55pm


I tried my best.

Stu2d2's picture
Stu2d2's picture
Stu2d2 Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 7:46pm

Didn’t know Longtoms swam in these latitudes..

NDC's picture
NDC's picture
NDC Monday, 2 Aug 2021 at 9:30pm

Thanks freeride - great report, don’t be giving too much away with tips for NE runners ... leave a little bit to their imagination and ingenuity, and a little bit of space for those of us who might’ve filled in those gaps ourselves - haha

mick-free's picture
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mick-free Tuesday, 3 Aug 2021 at 12:17am

Ben Drums
Craig Bass
Stu Frontman
Steve Lead guitar

Band looking good

science's picture
science's picture
science Tuesday, 3 Aug 2021 at 11:26am

bit random but that extreme north swell has waves running sideways to the beach at Newy. Just never noticed this before, thought the baths/Nobbys would block em

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Tuesday, 3 Aug 2021 at 11:33am

Wow, I haven't seen it that extreme before.