Troughy outlook continues with some prospects for swells if the planets align

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Mon Jan 1st)

Features of the Forecast (tl;dr)

  • Mostly small NE swells Mon PM, Tues with mod/fresh NE winds
  • Another flukey S groundswell Wed/Thurs
  • S’ly change Thurs with short range S/SE swell Thurs/Fri, wind affected under mod/fresh S-SE winds
  • Tricky weekend outlook but onshore winds and S/SE swells likely, possibly with a bit of size
  • Tricky outlook continues into next week, possible trough/low in Tasman with E-E/SE swells or low forming off Tasmania and sizey S swells
  • Check back Wed for latest updates and revisions


Not a great weekend to see out 2023- Sat saw some small leftover E and S swell to 1-2ft with clean morning conditions offering up a grovel for the keen. S swell increased Sun with size to 3-4ft at S facing beaches, bigger on the Hunter and poor conditions under freshening S-SE winds. Onshore SE-E, tending NE winds to bring in 2024 with a leftover S swell under-sized at 2-3ft (at best) and a low quality grovel for the keen beans ready to get off the mark for the New Year. Happy New year all.

A bit of swell energy on the Hunter but poor conditions under onshore winds

This week (Jan 1-5)

We’ve got a moderate strength high pressure cell (1025hPa) in the Tasman, connected to a high pressure belt under the continent, directing NE winds in Central/Southern NSW, more E-SE in the sub-tropics where a broad troughy area is directing a stronger onshore flow and whipping up local swells from that direction. 

Not much action ahead for the short run in the f/cast region. Mod/fresh NE winds through Tues and Wed across temperate NSW with lighter N-NW winds inshore early. Local NE winds proximate to the coast and E’ly winds in the Northern Tasman will supply a typical Summer mix of NE and E/NE short period swells topping out at 2ft Tues a’noon and holding through Wed. Models are still suggesting traces of long period S swell from zonal fetches generated by polar lows north of the ice shelf. That looks more likely Wed at S facing beaches with a few 2ft sets and the occ. bigger one at pure S facing reefs.

We’ll see a change Thurs as a trough pushes E of Tasmania and a front passes below the Island state. Expect a NW tending W/NW flow through the morning before the trough brings a vigorous S tending S/SE flow. Worth checking S facing beaches for long period S swell in the morning before the wind change with a few 2-3ft sets possible although inconsistent and flukey. Once the change sets in, we’ll see increasing short range S-SE swell building late in the day, more likely south of Sydney.

Building short range S-S/SE swells through Fri, with mod/fresh winds from the same direction will limit surf options but there should be a few semi-sheltered options available with rideable 2ft surf. Open beaches with S swell exposure will see size up into the 3-4ft range by the a’noon but very wind affected. 

This weekend (Jan 6-7)

Models are offering divergent scenarios leading into this weekend with EC suggesting the trough in the Tasman will deepen and move north into the Central/Northern Tasman, possibly as a closed surface low. Which would see moderate S/SE tending E/SE swells over the weekend under a S’ly tending E/SE flow across the weekend.

GFS has a much more subdued take with the trough dissipating and a weaker onshore flow. Under this scenario we’d see leftovers from the S/SE to 2-3ft Sat, easing during the day and smaller leftovers Sun to 2ft with a small increase in short period E swell Sun.

Neither scenario is too froth-worthy at this stage but we’ll see how it looks Wed. There’ll be a rideable wave of some description. 

Next week (Jan 8 onwards)

Model variance continues into next week so confidence is low on the outlook. EC maintains the trough and supporting high pressure in the Tasman, with workable E-E/NE swells and NE winds through Mon-Tues. It suggests a slow Southwards movement of the trough with winds shifting more E/SE-SE from Wed and swells tending more E/SE in this period. 

GFS suggests a more typical high pressure in the Tasman and NE flow through Mon with a new trough deepening off the Tasmanian or Gippsland Coast Tues bringing a stiff S’ly change.

A deep low is then expected to form (under this scenario) with gales off Tasmania into Wed and new S swell propagating northwards during Wed, potentially with some real size to it.

We’ll flag these scenarios for now and see how they look on Wed. We are due for a more substantial Tasman Sea swell after a fairly lacklustre period.

Check back Wed for the latest. 


nolocal's picture
nolocal's picture
nolocal Tuesday, 2 Jan 2024 at 12:13pm

first day of Jan was a cracker, best surf of the year so far.

sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Tuesday, 2 Jan 2024 at 6:37pm

Nolocal off the mark with 6 ..