Another highly active surf pattern ahead with some windows of good conditions

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Wed 9th Feb)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Easing swells on Thurs with early light winds tending NE, a S’ly change expected from Illawarra Southwards
  • Freshening S to SE winds Fri with a blend of small surf from the E/NE and building S’ly wind swell
  • Fresh S to S/SE winds Sat with a blend of S wind swell and Lully E/NE swell
  • Easing winds Sun with strong swells from the E/NE and SE-E/SE
  • Pumping Mon with light winds and strong E/SE-SE swell
  • Possible reinforcing pulse E/SE swell Tues with NE winds developing
  • Easing surf from mid next week


Surf has been on an improving trend as gradient winds ease back and strong SE-ESE swell continues. Yesterday was solid in the 4-6ft range, slightly bigger on the Hunter, with a period of light land breezes in the morning. Surf has continued to clean up with some pumping 6ft surf on the Hunter this morning, grading slightly smaller 4-5ft elsewhere. Conditions were primo, under a light offshore flow. All in all, a couple of good/great days if you could find somewhere handling the size and strength of the swell.

Some strong sets still in the water this morning

This week (Feb 8  - 11)

As noted on Mon, the impressive ridge pattern has now broken down, with a weak high pressure cell located over sub-tropical NSW leading to a regime oflight/variable winds, which will tend to light N’ly winds as a trough approaches from the W. Another strong ridge is expected to establish Fri with (another!) tropical low drifting south from the South Pacific later this week and over the weekend down the Tasman Sea pipe. This will provide another round of swells from the E/NE to SE, albeit looking a half notch weaker than the current round.

Short term and the trend is downwards- some leftover 3-4ft sets early, with a steeper  ramp down in the a'noon, leaving a few 2-3ft sets on the open beaches. Winds will be a bit flukey. The trough looks to stall around Jervis Bay, bringing a S’ly change there around lunch-time. Northwards should be more variable to NW, with an a’noon Nor-east breeze that should stay under 15 knots.

The end of the working week sees an increased confidence on the wind forecast- stronger S’lies. The trough drifts north and the leading edge of a new strong high pressure ridge starts to quickly establish. Winds may start lighter S to SW early, but that won’t last long as they quickly kick up over 15 knots and then tend mod/fresh SE. 

Expect a bit of E/NE swell in the water from a fetch of E to NE winds cradling the tropical low over the last couple of days. It’s not a particularly strong fetch but it is well aimed and has been persistent over 36-48 hrs. That should see surf in the 2-3ft range at spots exposed to the swell, which will also be those best placed to shelter from the wind. By the a’noon a bit of short period S to S/SE wind swell will be in the mix, not exceeding 2-3ft. A few surfable options Fri, but be ready for that wind.

This weekend (Feb 12 - 13)

We’re still on tropical cyclone watch for a tropical depression drifting southwards from between Port Vila (Vanuatu) and the western side of New Caledonia (see below).

First up, S to S/SE  winds are going to be fresh, possibly strong Sat, with accompanying short period wind swell building into the 3-4ft range, possibly 4ft on the Hunter. That will be the prime determinant of surf quality. 

A building trend will be in place Sat, with a mix of short period S/SE and E/NE swell in the 2-3ft range on the up from the morning. Some longer period E/NE swell will start too show from lunchtime but it’s wise to keep expectations pegged for this. It’s a short fetch, that looks quite mobile once it peeks out behind the swell shadow of New Caledonia. Expect a few Lully 3ft sets, at places out of the wind.

The ridge looks to break down quite quickly through Sunday, a result of the interaction between the high and south-wards moving cyclone or depression being much more mobile than this weeks pattern. Thus there’s good odds for a lighter SW to S flow Sunday morning, probably not enough to clean up the prevailing sea state from Saturdays strong S to SE winds. Through the morning winds should tend to light breezes, which should see an improvement in conditions. 

Surf wise things should be very interesting. Longer period E/NE swells from the impressive N/NE fetch on the low/cyclones eastern flank should peak Sunday with the potential for chunky 4-6ft sets. 

We’ll also see a blend of easing short range S/SE and developing SE swell from the cradling ridge in the Central Tasman Sea. While the fetch isn’t ideally aimed it’s length and breadth and areas of severe gales within it is expected to see swell build into the 5-6ft range, with some bigger sets possible. Given the two strong swell sources some areas of positive swell train enhancement may see outliers as far as wave heights go.

Next week (Feb 14 onwards)

Models now showing the remnants of the cyclone undergoing extra-tropical transition as it slides towards New Zealand. 

Monday looks fantastic, with light winds and a strong signal of E/SE-SE swell with surf in the 5-6ft range. If you can wrangle a day off, Monday looks a great day for it. Expect a light W to NW flow tending to light/mod E’ly sea breezes.

By Tuesday that N’ly flow will be a little more entrenched but still likely to have a W’ly component early. Leftover, easing surf in the 3-5ft range is expected to be reinforced by another pulse of E/SE groundswell as the remnants of the low/cyclone supercharge a gale force fetch out of Cook Strait Sun/Mon. That should see surf build again Tues PM into the 4-5ft range.

A quieter period then pads out the rest of the week, with easing swells and N’ly winds. 

A S’ly change Fri may have surf potential as a trough, and cold front push into the Tasman. Models are mixed but a surface low forming off the South Coast is one outcome. S swell off some kind is likely by next weekend. We’ve got enough to keep us occupied for now, so check back Fri for a fresh update before the weekend.


savanova's picture
savanova's picture
savanova Wednesday, 9 Feb 2022 at 9:17pm

BOM say Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands also on Cyclone watch.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Thursday, 10 Feb 2022 at 6:37am

Tropical Cyclone Dovi was named overnight, Currently NE of New Cal as Cat 1 but forecast to move due south and be Cat 2 by Saturday.

JPJ's picture
JPJ's picture
JPJ Friday, 11 Feb 2022 at 8:53am

Hi Steve/any other lurking forecasting guru,
Just wondering why the Swellnet model is predicting ESE-SE swell for Sydney from Sat 12/2 - Mon 14/2?
It looks to me that the winds on the eastern flank of Dovi that are directed at Sydney would result in NE - ENE swell? That is until Sunday 13/2 when the low heads over to NZ and there appears to be a good ESE fetch between the north and south island. Is that wind the source of Monday's swell?

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Friday, 11 Feb 2022 at 9:50am

The infeed of E/NE winds is strong but fast moving, short-lived and it'll be hard to distinguish under the local, stronger building SE swell energy. Expect a peak later Sun/early Mon from this flukey source.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Friday, 11 Feb 2022 at 9:54am

Cheers Craig.
Yep, Dovi is Cat 3 now, with a compact fetch of hurricane force winds, but about to accelerate to the S.