Winds chop and change in unstable pattern but workable swells continue

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Wed 1st Feb)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • SW-S winds expected Tues/Wed as trough/low hovers off Central/Mid North Coast- winds may be flukey depending on low movement
  • Possible small local E swell in the mix Wed
  • Small kick in E swell Thurs, easing into Fri with light AM winds Thurs, tending N’ly and freshening in the PM
  • Stalled mid-latitude low brings a W’ly flow Fri, extending into Sat tending SW-S on Sun
  • Small blend of E and NE swells over the weekend with clean conditions
  • Small S swell Mon
  • Uncertain outlook next week- potentially unstable, bad weather with onshores-stay tuned for updates


Mixed bag yesterday with some E/SE swell to 2-3ft, clean early under W to SW winds before fresh S’lies kicked in. These winds kicked up some short range S’ly swell to 3ft during the a’noon. The mixed bag continues into today with short range E-SE swell now mixing in with some mid period, longer-lined E swell, producing some fun waves to 3-4ft. Conditions are clean early under a W-SW flow, with SE winds kicking in through the morning. 

Nice E swell energy across the beaches this morning

This week (Feb1- Feb3)

The unstable pattern continues with a small trough of low pressure lingering off the Central NSW Coast, linked to tropical cloud bands and moisture streaming in from the Northern Monsoon. This unstable, humid pattern lasts through the week before a winter-calibre mid-latitude low blasts a clearing W’ly flow across most of the region. Workable pulses of funky E swells maintain surfable conditions until the pattern change beginning Friday, extending into the weekend.

In the short run and the small low quickly exits stage right, with a weak, variable flow through the morning expected before winds rapidly kick up from the N/NE, whipping up some NE windswell through the a’noon. In the morning there’ll be some clean 2-3ft surf with easing local E swell and some better quality mid period E swell filling in through the mid/late morning. 

Friday looks interesting. Early NW winds quickly tend W/NW and freshen as the large mid-latitude low drives a W’ly flow across most of temperate NSW. Through the a’noon expect some variability in winds as small, troughy areas form about the coast. That’s likely to see E’ly winds develop through the a’noon, more likely north of Sydney to the Hunter. Keep tabs on local winds because the mix of NE windswell and mid period E swell to 2-3ft should see plenty of fun beachy options open up.

This weekend (Feb 4-5)

W’ly winds are on the menu for Sat morning, veering between W/SW and W/NW through the morning as the stalled low sits off the SE tip of Tasmania. That will provide groomed conditions for the small mix of swells expected. More of the same mid period E and small NE-E/NE swell from winds feeding into the complex trough through the Northern Tasman with size in the 2 to occasional 3ft range.

Size dips Sun as swells ease and we’ll see winds shift more SW to S through the morning as the low starts to move E into the Tasman, albeit weakening as it does so. By the a’noon we’ll see winds shift SE to E as a new high pressure ridge briefly builds along the coast. Through the a’noon a small signal of S swell generated by the low tracks up the coast with size to 2-3ft at S facing beaches. Winds are likely to be unfavourable for this small pulse. 

Next week (Feb6 onwards)

Gales out of Bass Strait late Sat into Sun and a weaker fetch of SW-S winds below Tasmania supply small S swell for Mon (see below). The Hunter typically sees a stronger signal from these sources, with 3-4ft surf expected, grading smaller 2-3ft across S facing beaches elsewhere down to Sydney, with areas south of Sydney not seeing much at all. Winds won’t be flash as a high pressure ridge sees S to SE winds develop, tending E’ly through the a’noon. 

A weak high cell buds off the main high pressure belt and moves NE into the Tasman early next week, bringing a return to N’ly to NE’ly winds through Tues.

Models are still progging an increase in onshore NE-E/NE winds into an interior trough from mid next week, likely  leading to a few days of onshore, building E/NE swell from late Wed into Fri and possibly next weekend.

A passing front in the lower Tasman Tues/Wed next week is expected to generate a pulse of long period S swell in the 3ft range but with an arrival through later Thurs into Fri it’s likely this swell signal will be lost in the noise of a heavily onshore sea state. 

Instability remains a feature along a monsoon trough across the Arafura Sea, extending through the Gulf of Carpentaria and out into the Coral Sea and South Pacific. Models are not suggesting any discreet low pressure development along this trough line through the short/medium term and but we’ll keep monitoring for signs of life.

In the meantime it’s back to small, flukey swells and wind shifts. 

Check back Fri for the latest.


tylerdurden's picture
tylerdurden's picture
tylerdurden Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023 at 10:55am

Some fun waves at N Steyne this morning

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023 at 11:08am

Manly is good for over-achieving on those little E swell pulses.

FrazP's picture
FrazP's picture
FrazP Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023 at 12:40pm

Very solid and grunty in Cronulla. 4ft + sets occasionally. Shame about winds and banks.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023 at 11:09am

Indeed! Also constantly changing rips and banks, I started on an average one which fired for 45mins before then going too fast and straight.

batfink's picture
batfink's picture
batfink Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023 at 3:09pm

A nice swell hitting the local but the banks are a bit on the disastrous side. Have to catch it at the right tide.

Beach was closed to swimmers, and rightly so. Nowhere to put any flags out.

camby86's picture
camby86's picture
camby86 Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023 at 5:25pm

Have the swell train charts been under-calling, have the swells over delivered or a combo of both? Today's ESE swell was definitely bigger than the 2ft shown. Weekend south swell was the same story, much bigger than the forecast chart indicated. I thought the weekend SSE swell was because of the 14(ish) sec period but today was only around 9secs. Written notes have been spot on though and stoked to get some good waves!

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 2 Feb 2023 at 3:27pm

The Wave Watch model always seems to under-forecast S/SE-SE groundswells from that direction under New Zealand.

Otherwise yesterday's swell was much stronger and better than expected IMO, and it's worth looking at the raw swell sizes in the analysis tab as the size shown on the graphs tends to under-call smaller mid-period swells. IE 1m @ 10s out of the E and you can expect surf around 3ft.'s picture's picture Wednesday, 1 Feb 2023 at 7:45pm

Didn’t expect to find the quality from this morning! Stoked. Hopefully the same tomorrow morning

sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Friday, 3 Feb 2023 at 11:03am

Cracking waves this morning

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Friday, 3 Feb 2023 at 12:32pm

Insanely good fun this morning! Froth.