Lots of clean offshore surf this week with fun-sized swells from the E

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Mon 2nd May)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Building E/NE swells this week, peaking late Tues/Wed (good winds Tues AM, Wed and Thurs)
  • Smaller but still fun E/NE swells Thurs, becoming marginal Fri/Sat with a mostly offshore flow
  • Slight rebuild in E swell Sun with W'ly winds
  • Increase in directional S swell Sun PM, bigger pulse likely Mon
  • Strong E'ly pattern looks to set-up next week with building E swells and onshore winds- stay tuned for updates


Real mixed bag over the weekend. Sat saw a mix of NE and S swells with a rare SSE groundswell just noticeable on the buoy data but a few 3ft sets reported at a few select S swell magnets. All together a few 2-3ft sets were on offer, with average conditions early, improving through the a’noon as winds swung NW then W. Sunday saw a mix of S swell in the 3ft range with some E/NE swell with early light winds and today is seeing more surf in the 2-3ft range, with E/NE swell becoming the dominant swell train. All in all, a few fun waves to be had. 

Clean, peaky fun on Sunday

This week (May2-6)

High pressure is sitting over the interior of Central NSW, leading to wonderful, settled conditions, with a trade flow in the South Pacific supplying a steady drumbeat of small, fun E/NE swell. That pattern extends into mid week before a front passes through, bringing a W’ly flow. A low forming near Tasmania looks to stall, maintaining an offshore flow into the weekend before finally racing off into the Tasman later in the weekend, bringing S’ly winds. 

In the short run we’re looking at pleasant Autumn conditions with morning land breezes trending to light NE sea breezes in the a’noon. Surf tomorrow will be in the 3ft range with a longer period E/NE pulse on track to deliver some bigger 4ft sets through the a’noon. These will be coming from a fair way away so expect a wait for the sets and some slow periods. 

Size holds into Wed morning with 4ft sets and clean morning conditions. Expect a slow easing trend to set in through the a’noon, as N to NE winds kick up a notch. 

Hit the repeat button for Thurs. The approaching front will see winds swing NW through W/NW through the day and with such magical conditions on offer waiting for the sets won’t seem so bad. The swell will be on an easing trend as the tradewind fetch and low which imposed on it will have been moving Eastwards, away and slowly out of the swell window since this weekend. Tradewinds do rebuild at lower levels through this week around a trough near New Caledonia so E’ly energy won’t disappear, just wind back a notch or two, with sets still in the 3ft range, albeit a bit slow. Swell from that source will see surf rebuild later in the weekend.

The working week ends with another day dominated by offshore winds (see below). The front does push through with winds trending WSW through SW in the morning. As mentioned earlier a stalled low developing near Tasmania and linked to an interior trough in Victoria, re-establishes the W’ly flow through the day. Surf will still be easing so expect some early 2-3ft sets, dropping back down into the 2ft range through the day. A day of small surf brushed clean by offshore winds sounds nice like a nice day to wash off the week. A light, late seabreeze could be on the cards but nothing to do too much damage to surface conditions.

This weekend (May7-8)

Offshore winds and quite a bit of them looks like the theme this weekend. Models show the low stalling just off the NE coast of Tasmania through Sat, continuing the W’ly flow across most of temperate NSW. There won’t be much size on offer, just a couple of feet from the East. A perfect babyfood day for beginners, kids and those on the hunt for a non-threatening surf. Expect tides to swallow up much of the energy through their higher phases.

Sunday continues the offshore theme, at least for most of the day. The low does eventually move offshore, liberating a SSW to S flow along the Southern/Central NSW Coast. Swell muscles up a notch from the E during Sunday as swell from the re-energised tradewind fetch kicks up. Nothing dramatic, but size should boost back into the 2-3ft range. S swell will build in through the day, generated by twin fetches out of Bass Strait and adjacent to Tasmania. Both of those fetches are constrained by time and quite compact so we’ll peg them quite low for now- with sets in the 3ft range at S facing beaches, bigger in the a’noon. We can finesse that on Wed or Fri if models look more robust.

Next week (May 9 onwards)

A few things to keep our eyes on for next week. The weekend’s low is expected to track into the Tasman, although GFS model has a much more aggressive and favourable NE up into the Tasman compared to EC. That will see a more solid S swell Monday, although I am more persuaded to take the conservative EC track for now, with size in the 3-4ft range. That could easily be upsized to 4-5ft at S facing beaches. Winds will be from the south so best not get too excited. That should track down through Tues.

The main factor to watch will be another monster high moving through the Bight. That’s likely to see another strong E’ly pattern build in the Tasman Sea. Winds are likely to tend ESE to E through next week. A trough of low pressure may form off the SEQLD or NENSW coast, possibly moving south and bringing onshore winds and robust E swell through the middle to end of next week. 

To the south another very deep low looks set to form well to the south of New Zealand Tues/Wed, becoming storm force and tracking NE. That spells more solid surf for Tahiti. Although it’s on the eastern periphery of our swell window we’ll keep eyes on it for another rare SSE to SE groundswell, although there is a good chance it will be obscured by events in the Tasman Sea.

Check back Wed for a fresh update.


Stu2d2's picture
Stu2d2's picture
Stu2d2 Monday, 2 May 2022 at 5:52pm

Assume that the SE groundswell showed up somewhere well S of Sydney? Certainly nothing at my S swell magnets.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Monday, 2 May 2022 at 5:59pm

Yeah, Illawarra to South Coast apparently.

v. flukey.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Monday, 2 May 2022 at 6:27pm

Surfed it northern Illawarra on saturday afternoon. Clouds cleared, wind dropped to near zero so the long lines of SSE swell stood in relief to the sheet glass. Very inconsistent, most waves ridden were from other sources, but it was in the mix.