Plenty of S swell incoming with a nice long tail

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Wed 18th May)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • 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 lighter E'ly winds
  • SSE groundswell Mon, with a final pulse Tues and light winds on offer


Tiny surf on offer since the last f/cast. Yesterday was tiny and clean with offshore winds and today has seen a slight increase in heavily refracted S swell with some 2f sets around, slightly bigger across the Hunter. Sunshine and offshore winds have made surface conditions very attractive.

Small lines out of the S this morning

This week (May 18-20)

A series of cold fronts with embedded troughs are now steaming into the Tasman Sea, anchored by a deep polar low which provided large swells for Victoria and New Zealand’s West Coast. Behind the frontal progression another monster high is travelling south of the Bight, ready to set up another ridge along the East Coast. We’re going to see multiple overlapping pulses of S swell over the coming days as the cold fronts slingshot around the parent low on an already active sea state, with the biggest surf coming with some dodgy winds as the high pressure ridge sets up.

In the short run and winds will remain SW through tomorrow, with a lighter period of W’lies early and more S’ly bias to the winds through the later a’noon.

Surf will be under-sized early with some 2ft sets on offer before surf fills in during the day, with lines from the South, mostly mid period with some longer period more refracted swell trains on offer. That should see 2-3ft surf by lunch-time and bigger 3ft surf through the a’noon with the Hunter seeing an extra foot on top of that. Those winds will be an issue through the a’noon, veering more SSW to S through the mid/late a’noon.

Solid S swell is on offer Friday as a compact fetch of SSW gales slingshots NE into the Tasman Wed and then Thurs. There will be distinct pulses on offer through this swell. One is expected overnight Thurs, to be in the water Fri with 3-4ft sets at S exposed breaks, bigger 4-6ft on the Hunter. Early winds are likely to be SW to SSW before a S to SE flow kicks in. A second pulse arrives mid/late morning with 3-5ft surf, bigger 5-6ft on the Hunter. By this time winds are likely to have swung more S through SSE. This pulse should slowly ease through the a’noon with winds tending SE. Lots of surf on offer if you can deal with the winds.

This weekend (May 21-22)

No great changes to the weekend f/cast at this stage. The frontal progression and deep low will be on the other side of the Tasman, intensifying as it does into a monster storm force fetch mostly aimed at Tahiti and Northern Hemisphere targets. Sideband energy will impact the East Coast.

Winds will be the issue as high pressure moves over Tasmania with a ridge up the East Coast, stronger in sub-tropical latitudes.

Expect moderate SE to E/SE winds Sat, lighter S to SW inshore early, with winds from the E/SE abating Sun and tending more E’ly in the a’noon.

Swell wise, there won’t be any shortage of strong S to SSE swell. A mix of long period S and mid period SSE swell will see surf in the 3-5ft range Sat, bigger 4-6ft on the Hunter with a slight and slow easing trend during the day. That should translate to plenty of 3ft+ surf at more protected spots like Manly through the day.

Sunday sees surf roll-off in size, through the day. Plenty of size in the 3-4ft range is expected early at S exposed breaks, bigger 4-5ft on the Hunter, with size dropping off through the day. Lighter E’ly winds in the a’noon may open up a few more exposed breaks if you can handle some lump and bump.

Next week (May 23 onwards)

Large high pressure in the Tasman next week but the ridge slackens quite quickly so we’ll see the onshore flow weaken and land and sea breezes become established, possibly as early as Monday.

There’s more SSE swell on the menu, as a result of the parent polar low, becoming slow moving and re-intensifying as is moves under the South Island (see below)

Expect surf in the 2-3ft range Mon, rebuilding again into the 3ft range across S exposed breaks. With light winds on offer, tending to sea breezes it’ll be worth a look at a wide array of surf spots in the region.

A final SSE pulse is expected Tues, this one stronger than the one a few weeks ago, that was more flukey. This fetch is closer to the edge of the swell window and as such should be more reliable. Light land and seabreezes offer up excellent conditions for Tuesday with long period SSE groundswell offering up inconsistent 3-4ft sets, possibly a notch bigger at some of the more reliable S swell magnets, especially those with deep water focusing. Winds are likely to tend NE through the a’noon.

Into mid next week and beyond the high pressure slowly, slowly moves East through the Tasman. Tradewinds are located at higher latitudes, with surf concentrated in the sub-tropics. There is a chance a trough off the Mid North Coast to Central Coast later next week could see some bigger E swell but the most likely outcome is small levels of E/NE swell building in through the end of next week, likely in the 2ft range with a light NE flow, giving a summer feel to proceedings with a possible front pushing through next weekend.

We’ll check that out on Friday.

Seeya then.


geoffrey's picture
geoffrey's picture
geoffrey Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 1:41pm

plenty more swell than expected this morning. i thought it was gonna be flat. bigger than yesterday.'s picture's picture Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 4:04pm

With a good bank it was magic

FrazP's picture
FrazP's picture
FrazP Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 6:14pm

FR - was there a flukey swell in the water this arvo. I watched a few come in, went for a paddle, caught the only 4 waves to break in 1.5hrs and they were solid and powerful as - like overhead. In between there was literally nothing.

palpacino's picture
palpacino's picture
palpacino Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 6:28pm

Hey Steve,
Forecast is calling for light SW winds both mornings from Batemans Bay to the Border.
Swell also looks like it’s missing the Far south coast.
Would you agree?

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 18 May 2022 at 8:22pm

Most definitely yes on the first count for winds.

And almost certainly yes for the second, those swells are pretty well shadowed by the Cape Howe to Green Cape coast that sticks out so far.

Until you get north of Batemans.

FrazP's picture
FrazP's picture
FrazP Thursday, 19 May 2022 at 5:11pm

Seriously pulsey today. Morning session some bombs then died right down. Late lunch another solid pulse, then calmed down and the last 30 mins long straight lines are closing out the Northern beaches - real solid. Happy Days.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Friday, 20 May 2022 at 6:41am

Looking at the period data on the buoy trace you can clearly see the different but overlapping pulses hitting.

Looks a bit undersized now- in between pulses.

MrBungle's picture
MrBungle's picture
MrBungle Friday, 20 May 2022 at 11:45am

Yeah noticed this morning in the Southern Illawarra area that there was 2ft lower period sets coming in and then the odd 3-4ft more chunky set coming in less consistently. This was at a beach that faces ENE and relies on a bombie and a headland to refract some S swell sets in though. I could see that exposed island to the south and the bombie both had pretty big sets hitting them. Definitely somewhere on the coast getting some solid waves.