Extended period of small/medium S swells ahead

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Wed 17th May)

Forecast Summary (tl;dr)

  • Moderate S swell spike expected Wed with fresh S’ly winds
  • Easing S swell Thurs with SW-SSW winds
  • Small rebuild in SSE-SE swell Fri with mostly offshore winds
  • Fun SE swell extends into Sat with clean conditions 
  • Small and clean Sun, with traces of long period S swell in the water, winds tending SSW and freshening in the a’noon
  • S swell pulses expected to continue into next week- sizier mid week, stay tuned for updates


A small, fun morning of waves yesterday with mostly leftover SE swell to 2ft, 2-3ft on the Hunter. Conditions were clean early under an offshore flow before moderate S’ly winds kicked up. Those winds are with us again this morning with an increase in S swell to 3-5ft at exposed S facing beaches, smaller 2-3ft at sheltered spots. Nothing amazing but a few surfable options as a new moon morning tide starts to ebb.

Smaller and cleaner in sheltered Bays

This week (May 17-19)

A small low formed off a coastal trough close to the QLD/NSW border yesterday and is now drifting close to Lord Howe Island, continuing to move SE-E/SE towards New Zealand. A tight pressure gradient between the low and a dual-centred high moving through the Bight is creating low end gales and strong winds on the SW flank of the low and generating S’ly swells up the Eastern seaboard, favouring NSW for most size. The low lingers in the Tasman this week with a nice tail of SSE-SE swell expected once the initial spike in size settles down.

In the short run and the position of the  low and approaching high is expected to maintain a mod SSW flow across the region (W/SW-SW north of the Harbour), tending mod/fresh S’ly during the day. Enough to blow out most S exposed spots quickly with plenty of bump even early at spots with a morning land breeze. S’ly swell will be down a notch from today with size to 3ft early, easing to 2-3ft during the day.

Winds should improve Fri as pressure gradient ease and a trough approaches. Morning offshore winds should extend well into the late morning before tending light/variable and then even W’ly as a trough/front pushes through. Swells should tend more SE through Fri as a strong but off-axis fetch from the low near New Zealand sends swell to the East Coast. A few 3ft sets are on offer, with size mostly to 2-3ft. Friday still looks the best day of the week.

This weekend (May 20 - 21)

No great change to the weekend outlook with a front pushing a W’ly flow across most of the state on Sat and easing SE swells. We should see some fun 3ft surf early with some bigger 3ft+ sets possible, trending down to 2-3ft  during the day.

Sunday looks smaller with 2-3ft leftovers, fun and clean under offshore W/SW winds before winds tend SW-S/SW as a strong front pushes NE into the Tasman. That will see deteriorating surface conditions at S facing beaches.

Next week (May 22 onwards)

Sunday/Mondays front now looks like a moderate one with S swell pushing up through Mon into the 2-3ft range under SW winds tending S’ly through the day. EC does still suggest a more favourable alignment of the fetch than GFS so there is scope for an upgrade in size. We’ll fine tune that on Fri.

S swell builds further into Tues with longer period swell trains from a deeper fetch of gales builds into more mid period swell, which should see some bigger 3-4ft sets, 4-5ft on the Hunter. Favourable  winds are expected as winds tend W-W/NW in advance of another frontal passage. 

More fronts next week with current modelling suggesting a mid week pulse up into the 4-5ft range at S facing beaches under offshore winds. Lets see how the strength of these fronts is shaping up on Fri before we set anything in stone as far as size and timing is concerned.

Looks like an easing trend later next week, possibly extending into next weekend . Following that a stronger frontal system looks poised to enter the Tasman, with potential for stronger S swell into the new week of 29/5. That’s a long way out, so let’s see how it’s shaping up on Fri.

Seeya then.