Continuing pulses from the S with some unfriendly SE wind to deal with

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Fri 20th May)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Chunky mix of S swell trains Fri/Sat with SSE to SE winds
  • S swell easing from Sun AM with lighter SE'ly winds
  • SE winds rebuild Mon, with SSE groundswell on offer
  • Lighter SE winds Tues with continuing small SSE groundswell and small E/NE tradeswell
  • Favourable winds Wed with mix of tradeswell and easing SSE swell
  • More E/NE swell through the end of next week, stay tuned for revisions


A nice pulse of S swell that arrived later Wed, extended nicely into Thurs before reinforcing energy elevated wave heights further through the a’noon. Size was in the 2-3ft range early and notably for this swell direction Sydney was close to or as big as the Hunter coast. Through the a’noon there were some bigger 3-4ft sets, and conditions were on the good side with W/SW winds early tending SW through the a’noon.

A slightly undersized start this morning is now building with S swell sets to 4-5ft at S facing beaches, and early offshore wind tending S’ly to SSE’ly.

Nice lines this morning

This weekend (May 21-22)

The frontal progression responsible for the S swell pulses over the last couple of days is now on the New Zealand side of the Tasman, with a large high approaching Tasmania setting up a firm ridge along the coast.

That leaves our weekend f/cast fundamentally unchanged.

The ridge is at it’s strongest Saturday which means SE winds from the get go, with only a slim chance of a window of SW winds early. That will be most likely north of the Harbour. The South Coast will see a SW flow through the morning. Those winds will be mod/fresh for most of the day so unless you seek some wind protection it’s going to be very wind affected.

Surf-wise we’re expecting heights just to wind back a notch from today- although there probably won’t be much noticeable difference due to the slightly better swell direction getting into sheltered spots a little more. Expect 3-4ft surf through sheltered and semi-sheltered spots with bigger, more raggedy 4-5ft surf at more directly exposed breaks.

The pressure gradient in the ridge does ease during Sun, with a few weaker, troughy areas lingering around the area north of Sydney. That gives better odds for a morning SW land breeze, especially north of the Harbour and cleaner conditions overall. By mid morning winds will tend S to SE again, though at lower levels than Sat.

Another pulse of S/SSE swell will see surf heights maintain in the 3-4ft range, although we’ll see an easing through the day, more noticeable in the a’noon.

With the onshore winds expected it’s  not going to be a great weekend but there’ll be waves on offer if you can get out of the wind or tolerate lumpy/bumpy surf.

Next week (May 23 onwards)

Good news and bad news for early next week. The good news is the consolidation of storm activity south of New Zealand is going to continue to send long period SSE swell our way through Mon, Tues and even into Wed. 

The bad news is the dominant high near Tasmania is a bit more slow moving than expected, thus maintaining and even increasing the ridge along the NSW coast.

That sees more SE-ESE winds through Mon, likely at mod strength. The deep complex low well south of the South Island has reinforcing fronts ride up it’s SW flank this weekend and we will see long period SSE swell from this source through Mon. 

It’s going to be hard to pick the signal out of the noise but long period groundswell making landfall Mon should see some 4ft sets across most of the region, with bigger surf at select S swell magnets and deep water reefs if you can access them.

Tuesday sees another pulse, pushing surf back into the 3-4ft range, although with similar SE to ESE winds it’s going to feel like Groundhog Day as far as surface conditions go. Through Tuesday we should see some mid period trade swell fill in with some 2-3ft sets in the a’noon.

By Wed the ridge should have slacked sufficiently to see a land breeze develop overnight and into the morning hours. A mix of easing SSE swell and mid period trade swell should see fun beachbreaks in the 2-3ft range with light E’ly sea breezes in the a’noon.

Through the to end of next week and E/NE swell will be on the ascent. Just how big is still an open question due to some serious model divergence. 

Both models show a low forming near New Caledonia that quickly slips away to the SE mid week, which will add a small amount of E/NE swell to the mix later next week.

The trade flow then rebuilds with EC suggesting another trough/low forming SW of New Caledonia and intensifying in the South Pacific slot near the North Island. Those fetches are better aimed at the sub-tropics but will supply small levels of E/NE swell for temperate NSW.

GFS has a much more dynamic system forming off the Fraser Coast and drifting southwards later next week leading to much more solid E/NE to E swell next weekend.

With so much instability in the Coral and Tasman Seas it’s likely we’ll see substantial revision on Mon.

Check back then and have a great weekend!


FrazP's picture
FrazP's picture
FrazP Friday, 20 May 2022 at 3:50pm

Can add a foot or two to the recap for this area Steve. Another dynamic forecast as well - just keeps on coming.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Friday, 20 May 2022 at 4:24pm

Yeah, there's been a lot of variation in wave heights through these pulses Fraz.
Notably Sydney area having equal or even more size than the Hunter.

geoffrey's picture
geoffrey's picture
geoffrey Friday, 20 May 2022 at 6:04pm

Bommy around Illawarra was sucking in 6ft sets with the odd bigger one every half hour or so this morning

joesydney's picture
joesydney's picture
joesydney Friday, 20 May 2022 at 7:29pm

Maroubra was a measly 2ft but that’s standard for this direction swell

greg-n.williams's picture
greg-n.williams's picture
greg-n.williams Friday, 20 May 2022 at 7:38pm

Shite allround -south swell going past & cold s/west going sou/east! 15deg's top temp,Indo is looking real good!