Small S swell pulses tend to small E/NE swells as the tropics show signs of life

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Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Mon 28th Nov)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Small short range S swell increase Tues with mod/fresh S’lies developing
  • Size increases a notch into Wed AM, easing during the day with SE winds easing
  • Small traces of flukey long period S swell Thurs with light winds
  • Another small pulse of mid-period S swell Fri with light SE winds
  • Small E/NE swell developing over the weekend as low pressure area develops in Coral Sea 
  • Small E/NE swell expected to extend into next week
  • Small surf expected to hold through next week, depending on movements of Coral Sea low as it drifts towards New Zealand- stay tuned for updates


A tricky weekend that ran close to the script with Sat seeing small leftover S swell initially and S’ly winds. Surf jumped a notch under new, short range S swell- up into the 2-3ft range at most S exposed breaks, bigger 3-4ft on the Hunter. Sunday was smaller as that source faded out, with some clean 2ft surf on offer early before N’lies kicked in and S swell faded away. Today has seen S’lies re-establish with a paltry 1-2ft of surf on offer. There is some action ahead this week with both ends of the swell window showing signs of life as we leave Spring behind and head into Summer. Details below.

Nothing much happening to start the week

This week (Nov 28- Dec 2)

We’ve got an interesting looking pattern as we transition into Summer, with both active frontal systems transiting below the continent and a precursor monsoonal trough across the top end of Australia. A front pushing into the Tasman Sea and a deeper parent low bring S swell pulses this week while a trough of low pressure is expected to hive off the precursor monsoon trough mid week and sit in the Coral Sea later this week, bringing E swell for the Eastern Seaboard- initially to the sub-tropics and then spreading down to temperate NSW over the weekend at reduced levels.

In the short run and we’ll see early offshore winds through Tues morning in a weak, troughy environment, before a front pushes through around lunch-time with mod/fresh SW winds clocking around quite quickly to the S-S/SE as the a’noon progresses. Surf will be tiny through the morning  with a spike in short range S swell expected in the wake of the front. Quality will be low with size pushing up into the 2-3ft range at S facing beaches, bigger on the Hunter.

High pressure moves quickly over Central NSW on Wed, with winds dropping out quickly and tending to light SE-NE breezes through the a’noon.  Along with the short period S swell, some better mid-period S swell will be in the water Wed morning with size topping out around 3ft at S facing beaches, bigger 4ft on the Hunter. Expect surf to still be scrappy after overnight S’lies, with smaller, cleaner surf at sheltered spots offering the best options.

By Thurs high pressure will be straddling Tasmania directing a weak, onshore flow across the f/cast region. A trough of low pressure off the CQ/Fraser Coast will be generating increasing swells for the sub-tropics but further south we’ll be looking at a couple of quiet days dominated by a mix of S swell trains. Traces of long period swell generated by a storm force low under the continent make landfall Thurs with the source expected to produce ultra-flukey results. Most places won’t see it, but a few select S swell magnets may see some 3ft sets through Thurs with most beaches relying on small leftover S swell in the 2ft or less range. 

The remnants of the low pass into the Tasman Wed into Thurs, with a more reliable S swell signal on offer Fri (see below). Winds will shift more S to SE as reinforcing high pressure moves over Tasmania and re-sets the ridge along the coast, although it will remain weak across temperate NSW. Directional S swell should fill in mid-late morning, with reliable S swell magnets likely to see 2-3ft surf, smaller across the rest of the region. It’s not a great outlook but there should be a rideable wave for the keen.

This weekend (Dec 3-4)

The trough of low pressure off the QLD coast looks to remain locked and loaded off the sub-tropics, with reduced surf potential for the more temperate surf regions of NSW. 

Light winds are expected Sat, with morning land breezes tending to weak seabreezes. We’ll see a small signal of E/NE swell start to radiate off the bottom of the fetch up north- nothing any size but building into the 2ft range. That should offer up a surfable grovel on the right equipment.

More of the same E/NE swell is expected Sun- likely in the 2ft range with winds now tending NE as high pressure moves Eastwards across the Tasman Sea. 

The caveat to the weekend f/cast is any southwards movement of the Coral Sea low and associate fetch could bring a size upgrade, so stay tuned throughout the week as we update that outlook.

Next week (Dec 5 onwards)

A trough is expected to bring a weak S’ly change early next week, with Mon seeing more small E/NE swell in the 2-3ft range.

Following this a weak, troughy pattern looks to set-up in the Tasman Sea with the Coral Sea trough of low pressure drifting towards New Zealand and more days of small surf ahead. 

A front passing to the south on Mon/Tues may bring some small S swell Wed with size unlikely to exceed 2-3ft.

Otherwise, surf remains small and weak through most of next week.

Models are offering divergent outcomes over the fate of the Coral Sea low, with GFS suggesting it may reintensify near the North Island later next week, offering potential for a pulse of E swell on the weekend or early week 12/12. 

EC model maintains a weak area of low pressure in that region which would suggest continuing small, weak surf from the E/NE. Not flat, but not too far off.

Major models continue to favour a monsoonal trough line across Northern Australia and into the Coral Sea so we’ll continue to monitor that for signs of low pressure development as we track deeper into Summer.

Check back Wed for the latest update.


joesydney's picture
joesydney's picture
joesydney Tuesday, 29 Nov 2022 at 2:10pm

Argh - I miss surfing 3 days a week already!