Solid surf, slowly easing into the weekend, with conditions improving

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

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

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Very large S to S/SE swell Wed, with strong SW to S'ly winds
  • Slow easing of still large S/SE swell Thurs with mod/fresh SW winds tending S'ly and moderating
  • Plenty of solid S/SE swell Friday with lighter winds
  • Fun S/SE swell Sat, with some E swell in the mix and light winds
  • Surf easing back to small on Sun, extending into Mon
  • Small blend of swells Tues with some long period S swell in the mix
  • Round of workable E swell Wed onwards with onshore winds
  • Tracking the tropics for potential cyclone towards the end of next week


Crazy wild weather with intense rainfall has been recorded through the region as a low forms in an unstable trough line. Yesterday was mostly a write off except for sheltered areas which saw some 3-5ft surf, along with atrocious water quality. Today has seen the low spin up with strong to gale force SW winds now tending SSW and building 4-5ft surf. There were good waves at sheltered spots, although putrid water quality has kept most people out of the water. We’ll see a settling trend over through the end of the of the week as the low moves away to the SE. 

Hectic on the Hunter with tons of size and wind

Cleaner options in the Bays

This week (Mar 9-11)

The squeeze between a 1001 hPa low off the South Coast and 1030 hPa high moving through the Eastern Bight is producing a line of gales off the NSW South Coast, extending northwards up to the Hunter and southwards into the Tasman Sea. This fetch is producing a fast rising S swell through today, with a peak expected overnight and into the morning before an easing trend sets in. The low is currently semi-stationary but expected to track away to the SE quite quickly through the a’noon and into tomorrow.

That will see an easing in local wind strengths as pressure gradients quickly through the next 36-48hrs. Fresh SW winds through Thursday morning will accompany plenty of large S swell with size in the  8-10ft range at S exposed beaches, bigger 10ft on the Hunter. That will wind back through the day, into the 6ft+ range, 6-8ft on the Hunter. Winds will tend S’ly through the day so you’ll need to seek protection, and those sheltered spots will see smaller surf. 

The easing trend of the first pulse of S swell will continue into Friday to be replaced by a better angled S/SE swell generated by the deeper fetch in the lower Tasman. Lighter S’ly winds should tend SW early, especially north of the Harbour, before tending to light SE to E/SE breezes in the a’noon. Expect plenty of solid 4-6ft S/SE swell through the day, likely a bit jumbled from the local sea state but cleaning up through the day. As long as you’re not too fussy there should be good options on Friday.

This weekend (Mar 12-13)

More size now expected for Saturday as S/SE swell hangs in there in the 3-5ft range, with the biggest surf on the Hunter. There will be some E’ly swell from the sub-tropics in the mix as well. This has been chugging away the last couple of days- part of the endless E’ly swell generation we’ve seen over the last couple of weeks. That will add some 2-3ft sets into the mix. Light E’ly winds are expected, with good odds for a morning land breeze and a’noon winds tending NE. Saturday looks the better of the weekend days.

Size drops back into Sunday. Early morning sees swell from the S/SE topping out in the 3ft range at exposed S facing breaks, easing right backfiring the day. E’ly swell in the 2-3ft range likewise drops back through the a’noon. Light morning land breezes will tend to light sea breezes, offering up a gentle a’noon surf in the 2ft range. The smallest surf we have seen for a fair while.

Next week (Mar14 onwards)

No great change to next weeks outlook. High pressure moves into the Tasman, east of Tasmania by Monday, setting up a more regulation and less robust blocking pattern into next week. Monday looks like the low point of the week with gentle leftovers in the 1-2ft range and a light flow with land and sea breezes.

Tuesday perks up a little with a small mixed bag. Long range E swell generated well to the E/SE of New Zealand is mostly aimed at the sub-tropics but a small amount is expected to make landfall in temperate NSW. That will see some 2ft sets, along with sone short period E swell generated by the ridge and weak flow in the Tasman. Some long period S swell generated by a deep low passing well to the south on the weekend is also expected to be worth some 2ft sets at S facing beaches, possibly 2-3ft at some of the more reliable magnets. Winds will be the problem as the ridge strengthens and onshore E’lies kick up a few notches. Looks like the best bet is the early.

Into the middle of next week and the general E’ly flow through the Tasman is expected to see shorter period E swell kick up into the 3ft range through Wed and possibly Thursday. 

There is a chance remnants of the current low could linger near the South Island or Cook Strait, or both, suggesting some small pulses of SE and E/SE swell towards the end of next week but both fetches look unremarkable at this stage so we’ll just flag them for now and revisit on Friday.

GFS model is suggesting another low or cyclone tracking south from the Coral Sea at the end of next week, but again, this is right at the end of model runs and just worth flagging for now as a possible.

Check back Fri for a final look at the weekend and the longer term outlook.