Strong S swells from Thurs but winds from the SE a problem

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Mon 16th May)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Tiny surf Tues, slightly bigger S swell at S facing beaches Wed with offshore winds both days
  • Solid increase in S swell Thurs PM, with SSW to S'ly winds increasing
  • Chunky mix of S swell trains Fri/Sat with SSE to SE winds
  • S swell easing from Sun AM with ligher E'ly winds
  • E’ly pattern setting up again later next week with E/NE swell expected, stay tuned for updates


Pleasant weekend of small fun waves with Saturday seeing surf topping out around 3ft with light NW winds that shifted N’ly in the a’noon. Sunday had a more true offshore flow, grooming some 2-3ft surf from the E to E/NE. Size has dipped a it today but there are still some small 2ft waves on offer with clean conditions. 

Nice conditions over the weekend if you could find a good bank

This week (May 16-20)

A deep, slow moving polar low well to the south of the continent is driving a W’ly flow across most of temperate NSW, with sub-tropical areas still under the influence of lingering troughiness after the weekends low pressure fizzed out near Fraser Island. Fronts with embedded troughs are pushing into the Tasman with some small pulses of refracted S swell associated with them. 

Stronger fronts push up into the Tasman from later Wed, bringing a SW flow and bigger S swell as we head to the end of the week. That bigger S to SSE swell will come with S to SSE winds as a new dominant high ridges in from the south of the Bight. 

In the short run we’re looking at a couple of very small days as surf heights bottom out and offshore winds groom the tiny swells close to flat. Expect offshore W winds through Tues and Wed, with tiny swells. Just a foot or so at most beaches, with S facing beaches on the Hunter seeing 1-2ft surf. Conditions will be clean under synoptic W’ly winds which will tend SW later Wed as a strong cold front pushes across NSW and into the lower Tasman. 

We’ll see a steep building trend in new S swell Thurs, from a variety of swell producing fetches. Including gales out of Bass Strait , gales off the SE tip of Tasmania and a deeper, trailing fetch extending SW of Tasmania which tracks NE later Wed  into Thurs (see below). There’ll be undersized lines from the S early with some 2-3ft sets at S facing beaches but that swell will really kick around lunch-time through the a’noon. Expect sets up into the 3-4ft at S exposed breaks through the a’noon, bigger 4-5ft on the Hunter. SW winds through the morning will will clock around S’ly through the a’noon, so you may need to sacrifice a bit of size to find cleaner conditions. 

Plenty of S swell to end the working week but winds look a bit problematic. The deep SW fetch will see size up in the 3-5ft range at S exposed breaks, bigger 4-6ft on the Hunter but the strong high pressure ridge building in will quickly see winds swing from S to SSE during the day at moderate strength. Expect a window of cleaner conditions with SW breezes north of the Harbour. Once that wind kicks in, you’ll need to sacrifice size to find quality.

This weekend (May 21-22)

Plenty of wind and swell ahead this weekend, as the strong frontal activity through the Tasman maintains plenty of S’ly energy. Winds will be the issue though, as yet another large high sitting south-east of Tasmania (typically summer latitudes) sets up a SE to E’ly pattern.

Let’s deal with winds first. 

We’re looking at mod/fresh SE-ESE winds Sat, a notch lighter Sun but more E’ly in direction. There is a small troughy area on the wind models just north of Sydney which may offer some respite Sun, but we’ll finesses that wind f/cast later Wed or Fri- it’ll be a flukey last minute call.

Surf-wise there’ll be a strong mix of S swell trains in the water as multiple swell generating fetches operate on an already active sea state. 

S swell in the 14-15 second period band should see surf up in the 3-5ft range with solid 6ft surf on the Hunter. A reinforcing pulse of more S/SE angled swell at similar size will provide plenty of energy through the a’noon. That should be enough to get into sheltered corners out of the wind (somewhat), where you’ll find smaller but cleaner surf.

Those heights ease back through Sun with early energy in the 4-5ft range dropping back through the day, likely in the 3ft range at S facing beaches by the a’noon. E to ESE winds will be on offer so expect plenty of lump and bump at exposed breaks. 

Next week (May 23 onwards)

Large high dominates the Tasman next week. We’ll see easing conditions through Mon, with a light E’ly flow and small S swell leftovers. 

By Tues small levels of E to E/NE swell will start to build in, at summer levels.

Through mid to end of next week and swell will continue from the Eastern quadrant. GFS has a much stronger trade flow anchored by a trough/low in the Coral Sea which sees the fetch of E’ly winds in the Coral Sea start to extend southwards into the Northern Tasman . EC has a weaker E’ly flow, contracting E’wards into the South Pacific during next week.

We’ll see E’ly to ENE’ly swell build later next week, stronger under the GFS scenario, weaker with the EC prognosis. 

Check back Wed and we’ll see how the end of next week is shaping up as far as another round of E/NE swell goes. 

Seeya then.


tylerdurden's picture
tylerdurden's picture
tylerdurden Tuesday, 17 May 2022 at 9:50am

Unlucky for the Manly comp, barely been under 3 feet for the last few months