Surf slowly easing from the E/NE with onshore winds remaining a problem

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Wed 5th Jan)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • E/NE swell, rebuilds slightly Thurs with fresh NE winds developing
  • E/NE swell holds Fri AM, tending to NE windswell in the PM and easing, with NE winds
  • Easing NE swell Sat, S'ly change likely. Best conditions early before S'ly change.
  • Small surf Sun and into early next week
  • Short range S to SE swell Wed with mod/fresh SE winds
  • More tropical E/NE swell likely from Wed next week, stay tuned for details


Strong E/NE swell from ex TC Seth provided surf in the 5-6ft range through yesterday, with winds a bit of a problem. Larger 6-8ft surf was reported on the South Coast! For the most part a mod SE flow ensured quality was below average, with the best waves at more sheltered spots. Size has declined a notch today but with sets still in the 4-6ft range with a general E’ly flow ensuring more scrappy surface conditions. Winds are now in the process of clocking around to the E/NE and NE where they will stay for the rest of the week.

Lots of incoming swell energy but scrappy with onshore winds

This week (Jan 5-7)

The remnants of TC Seth have drifted northwards and are now located off the southern edge of the Fraser Coast, where the system is slowly dissipating. A strong high is now slipping in underneath Tasmania and the combination of the decaying ex cyclone, developing high pressure ridge and an interior trough is creating a long, broad fetch E/NE winds extending from New Caledonia down into the Central Tasman Sea. This set-up persists this week, producing both wind and swell from the E/NE to NE before a trough brings a S’ly change to the f/cast region on Sat. 

More tropical activity is expected next week, although these is still considerable model divergence on exactly how that will shape up. Let’s dig in.

In the short run there’s no  great change to Mondays f/cast notes. Surf will hold in the 4ft range, angling slightly more E/NE during the day, and surface conditions will deteriorate as E/NE winds freshen. It’s hard to see anywhere with any great quality so the best bet is to head for decent bathymetry and take your chances in the washing machine. Winds are expected to exceed 20 knots during the day, possibly reaching 30 knots so surface conditions will be a real mess. Cleanest conditions will be early morning but even that is likely to be sloppy.

Friday will see winds tend more NE, possibly allowing some cleaner surf in northern corners. E/NE swell in the 4ft range will ease a notch during the day, with swell periods dropping down and NE windswell entering the mix. There’ll be plenty of swell energy for a surf but again, keep expectations very low as far as quality goes. 

This weekend (Jan 8 - 9)

Surf on Sat will depend on the timing of a S’ly change. It’s likely to be across the southern parts of the region early, with more northern parts seeing a light NW to N flow. With leftover E/NE swell still in the 3-4ft range, if you can jag the early there should be fun waves before the S’ly hits, confining cleanest options to more sheltered spots. Size will be easing through the day as energy from the E/NE to NE ebbs away. 

Sunday looks pretty ordinary, to be honest. A weak S to SE fetch sets up in the wake of the change but it won’t be worth much. 1-2ft of short period S/SE to SE swell. Along with a few tiny traces of E/NE swell around the same size. With mod S/SE to SE winds expected there won’t be much too get excited about.

Next week (Jan3 onwards)

The broad scale pattern for the start of next week can now be sketched out, with details added as they become clearer. Another strong high moving south of the Bight,  and a large area of tropical low pressure in the South Pacific Convergence Zone , likely between Fiji and Vanuatu. The sub-tropical high pressure belt also extends Eastwards of New Zealand and the cradling effect of this belt along the low pressure zone is expected to create a long fetch of enhanced Tradewinds during next week. 

This fetch will initially favour northern NSW and SEQLD, with a few tiny days on offer to start next week south of Seal Rocks. 

Expect a small blend of 1-2ft surf through Mon and Tues next week across the region.

Another S’ly change is expected later Tues as another troughy, short range feature forms in the Lower Tasman. This small, cut off low is energised by the approaching high pressure ridge from the High in the Bight, with a spike in short period S/SE swell expected Wed. Quality will be low but size should push up into the 3-4ft range, bigger 4-5ft on the Hunter, with accompanying mod/fresh SE winds. 

By the latter half of next week we should see some small levels of E/NE swell making landfall in temperate NSW. Size will be modest at this stage, in the 2-3ft range and onshore E/SE to E winds will be a problem. Short range E’ly swell will become dominant as a trough lingers in the Central Tasman.

Longer term and models diverge over the fate of the tropical low. EC races it away to the SE, where it’s swell generating potential is low. GFS has the system intensifying, possibly to cyclone status, before slowly tracking southwards towards the North Island. That offers much better potential for a juicier pulse of longer period E/NE to E swell, possibly by next weekend. 

The long lead time and model variance gives low confidence this far out. 

Check back in on Fri and we’ll serve up the latest update on how it’s shaping up. 


brownie48's picture
brownie48's picture
brownie48 Wednesday, 5 Jan 2022 at 1:29pm

BOM is saying a little bit of south swell is on the cards for the next couple of days, are they drinking their own Kool Aid?

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 5 Jan 2022 at 2:02pm

Some small traces of longer period S swell in the mix but very doubtful you will notice it in amongst the dominant E/NE swell and sea state.

Mark.Fletcher's picture
Mark.Fletcher's picture
Mark.Fletcher Thursday, 6 Jan 2022 at 8:28am

That must have been arguably the best Cyclone swell event to land perfectly over a new year holiday period in many years?