Few days of smaller surf and N'ly winds to get through before the next S swell

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Mon 9th August)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Mid period S/SSE swell easing Tues with light N’ly winds AM, freshening Tues PM. Fading leftovers Wed AM at S facing beaches
  • Small, weak S pulse Fri, possibly surfable at S facing beaches
  • Slightly bigger but junky S swell Sat, followed by better quality S swell Sun  AM
  • More S swell next week
  • Potential SSE groundswell later next week, low odds, stay tuned


Saturday was a cracker of a day with plenty of 3ft+ S swell spread across the beaches- bigger 3-4ft on the Hunter - with a regime of light morning land breezes that tended to light NW to N'ly breezes in the a'noon. A robust S'ly change clamped down on options during Sun with most places open to the S swell having very low quality. Longer period S swell did open up a few semi-protected places. 

Clean conditions returned today with plenty of fun surf in the 3-4ft range, some bigger bombs at more exposed S facing beaches. Light land breezes are now tending NE and beginning to freshen as we enter a period of N'ly winds for the next few days.

This week (Aug 9-13)

After a month or more of a mostly W’ly flow across the lower and central Tasman the dominant feature for the first half of this week is a large, dominant high pressure system sitting roughly due East of Sydney and slowly making its way across the Tasman Sea. 

N’ly winds around the large western flank of the high are already on the menu and will be with us until the next cold front crosses the state, likely Thursday, though we might need to revise that timing on Wed due to some model divergence.

Recapping our current swell source from Fridays notes and a small but intense low formed in a trough East of Tasmania on Saturday,  intensifying a long fetch of mostly gale to severe gale SW winds that tracked NE towards the North Island. Weekend ASCAT (satellite windspeed) passes confirmed this fetch and the current pass shows a very large area of gales adjacent to the North and South Island, aimed mostly at South Pacific targets. 

Energy radiating from this source fetch is expected to see a slow tail off in wave heights through tomorrow, with some fading (just rideable) leftovers Wed, but you will have to deal with freshening N’ly winds.

Expect some 3ft sets at S facing beaches through tomorrow, on favourable parts of the tide with an early NW breeze clocking around NNW then N through the morning session. Freshening N’lies will confine the a’noon session to S facing beaches. 

Wednesday will be mopping up some 1-2ft leftovers, possibly the odd 2-3 footer left at swell magnets open to the S. Fresh NNW to N winds tending N’ly through the day open up a flukey N’ly windswell chance for the Hunter coast where a thin band of N’ly winds adjacent to the coast extends northwards to the Coffs region. It’s a low odds event for a potential 1-2ft wave so probably not worth working around. 

The end of the working week looks very below average. Swell from the SE dries up, and a weak front pushes through the Tasman Thursday, with winds tending NW, then W before a S’ly change pushes up the coast. 

That front pushes a brief fetch of W’lies through Bass Strait overnight Wed into Thursday, weaker and briefer compared to previous fetches in the last month. That should generate a minor S pulse, just enough for a surfable 1-2ft wave Friday at S facing beaches, although with winds clocking back to the W it might be worth a paddle to end the working week if you’ve got the right board for the weak surf on offer.

This weekend (Aug 14-15)

Moderate S swells on offer this weekend, bigger and better on Sunday. Models are picking up a small flush of S swell arriving mid-morning Sat as the front pushes into the Tasman Friday/Sat, worth 2-3ft at S facing beaches but nothing to get excited about with a high pressure ridge nosing in likely to bring S’ly winds up the coast. That suggest a pretty junky, low quality day of surf.

Sunday looks a better bet with a more substantial S’ly pulse tied to the passage of a deep polar low and front centred around 55S tracking below Tas on Fri13th. This swell will be a notch below  last weeks S’ly swell but is expected to provide 4ft surf at S facing beaches Sun morning. Winds should be light, tending SW to Sly as a small, troughy feature forms of the Mid North Coast which may see light NE winds develop. We’ll need to revisit that wind forecast Wed but at this stage Sunday is the best bet for the weekend. 

Next week (Aug16 onwards)

Further fronts push under Tasmania on the weekend and early next week. A following front to the Fri/Sat pushes through south of 55S with a very zonal or even NW tilt to the wind alignment and doesn’t look to be a useful swell provider.

The next one in the series tied to a polar low passes the Tasman sea pipe Mon into Tues with a slightly more favourably angled SW fetch and seas in excess of 30ft. This fetch is still aimed at New Zealand and Pacific targets but radial spread away from such a large, oceanic storm is expected to see another moderate pulse of S swell late Tues/Wed next week. We’ll keep expectations hosed down due to the Zonal nature of the fetch and look at another modest round of S swell in the 2-3ft range at S facing beaches.

A very flukey source of swell may form Mon/Tues next week with a semi-stalled polar low on the ice-cap potentially flaring up with a straight S’ly or even SSE’ly fetch aimed back into the Tasman sea. It’s a low odds event but we’ll flag it now, with a best case scenario of long range, long period SSE swell in the 3-5ft range arriving potentially Thurs. 

Absent that, models are divergent with GFS suggesting a large high drifting E of Tasmania and suppressing our Southern swell window while EC is a little more bullish, with another cold front pushing into the Tasman early next week with more S swell on the menu for the mid/latter part of next week. More on that in Wednesday’s forecast.