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Ben Matson picture
Ben Matson (thermalben)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Fri Dec 15)

Features of the Forecast (tl;dr)

  • Small patchy surf Sat/Sun/Mon, generally light winds
  • Building NE windswells Tues, chance for a late period of good winds before a S'ly change
  • Building short range SE swells Wed/Thurs/Fri
  • Small trade swell later next week/weekend


Thursday delivered a mix of easing S’ly swell and minor NE windswell, around 2-3ft, with early light winds before strengthening offshores and easing size into the afternoon made it difficult to find something decent. A gusty southerly change arrived overnight but had eased substantially before dawn, and we’ve got a minor pulse of new S’ly swell in the water this morning, up to 2-3ft at south swell magnets but much smaller elsewhere. 

Small Friday beachies in the Gong

This weekend (Dec 16 - 17)

I’m not expecting a great deal of surf this weekend.

Saturday will start with small easing southerly swells from today, perhaps some stray 2ft sets at south swell magnets but not much on offer elsewhere. It’ll then ease in size into the afternoon.

A weak synoptic pattern will create light winds for most of the day, however a shallow southerly change will push along the South Coast into the afternoon, reaching Sydney overnight.

Much like we have seen over the last 12 hours, Saturday night’s southerly change will probably subside by early Sunday morning; lingering S/SE winds are possible north from Sydney into the Hunter region, otherwise it’s looking like another day of variable winds for the second half of the weekend.

Also, just a friendly reminder that ‘variable’ winds means ‘from any direction’, so onshore are certainly a chance on Sunday - I just don’t think there’ll be a lot of strength if and when they develop.

Anyway, there is some minor surf potential for Sunday.

The parent low to the overnight southerly wind change will pass beneath Tasmania on Saturday, and for the most part it’ll be positioned outside of NSW ’s acute south swell window. 

However, the latest model guidance is now showing a modest W/SW fetch exiting eastern Bass Strait in association with the front, and this should allow a small flush of south swell to push up the coast on Sunday (in the wake of the change). 

There’s a chance it may not quite be in the water for the dawn patrol - particularly as you head further north - but we should otherwise pick up some 2ft sets at south facing beaches throughout the day. Expect much smaller surf elsewhere. 

In general, keep your expectations low this weekend, but there should be grovelly options both days. 

Next week (Dec 18 onwards)

A weak trough associated with Saturday night’s change will linger off the Northern NSW coast on Sunday and then slowly track south into Monday, whilst easing in strength. It won’t have much strength though a minor E’ly fetch on its southern flank could spin up some small peaky waves for Monday (no more than a couple of feet tops). 

An approaching inland trough will then strengthen the morning’s light winds into a fresh N/NE breeze into the afternoon, and this should kick up some NE windswell for Tuesday. Depending on the timing of the trough - which will eventually bring about a southerly change as it tracks over the coast - we could see some 2-3ft+ sets across Sydney beaches. 

The key to scoring good surf will be to identify the timing of the wind change, as we should see westerlies somewhere in the middle (as the swell peaks in size). That currently looks to be around Tuesday afternoon, but I’ll have more information on that in Monday’s update.

This inland trough looks like it’ll then linger just off the coast for the rest of the week. There is some potential that it’ll form into a decent swell generating system, but for now the most likely scenario is for building short range SE swells through the second half of the week, pushing 3-5ft across the South Coast with wave heights grading smaller as you head north from about the Illawarra.

Again, I’ll refine this outlook in more detail next week.

It’s also worth mentioning that the trades will slowly strengthen and broaden throughout next week, and should start to supply some minor E/NE swell for Southern NSW later in the week and into the pre-Xmas weekend.

See you Monday!


sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Friday, 15 Dec 2023 at 4:22pm

Xmas period looks fun at this stage ..

belly's picture
belly's picture
belly Monday, 18 Dec 2023 at 3:21pm

Looking forward to the notes 'dynamic period ahead'.
Edit: actually 'a Christmas feast for the east' sounds better :-)

thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Monday, 18 Dec 2023 at 3:26pm

You're hired!

Can you help us program our new AI bot?

belly's picture
belly's picture
belly Monday, 18 Dec 2023 at 3:38pm

Ha ha a crusty commercial numbers guy that writes the odd terrible poem for my lifer, I think I'll leave you guys to it. Just a bit bored in the last week and looking forward to this swell(s).