Back to summer basics with small beachies expected (and large swells evaporating)

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Wed Jan 3rd)

Features of the Forecast (tl;dr)

  • Small flukey S groundswell Thurs with early NW winds
  • S’ly change Thurs with short range S/SE swell Thurs/Fri, wind affected under mod/fresh S-SE winds
  • Not much surf this weekend, small S/SE swell Sat, smaller and more E/SE Sun with light winds
  • Freshening NE winds Mon with developing NE windswell
  • NE windswell holds into Tues at workable levels
  • S’ly change Thurs
  • Low forming off Tasmania now skips away so only small S/SE swell likely later next week


Small, workable beachies yesterday to 2ft with a slight tilt to the N in winds (from the NE) offering up slightly improved wave quality in a few Northern corners. Today has eased back a notch to a weak 1-2ft with light NW-N winds tending NE. Fairly typical summer slop, but offering up a grovel for the keen.

Grovelly beachies  remain on the menu

This week (Jan 3-5)

Not a great deal of change since Mon with a slow moving, weakening high in the Tasman, and a coastal trough off the QLD Coast (responsible for hundreds of mm of rainfall) now moving away and dissipating. A trough moving north from a position east of Tasmania brings a vigorous S’ly change tomorrow extending into Fri before the summer pattern slowly resets over the weekend. Any large or moderate swell generating features have disappeared from the charts, alas.

In the short run we’ll see early N’lies tomorrow (NW inshore early) before the S’ly change hits - likely on the Illawarra mid morning, Sydney by lunch-time. Check S facing beaches and reefs early for traces of long period S swell with some inconsistent 2ft (occ 3ft at the best magnets) possible before the wind shifts. There’ll be a small window of clean-ish small NE windswell (2ft) at protected north facing spots under the S’ly before windswell eases and winds swing S-S/SE at mod/fresh strength.

Short range S-S/SE swell picks up due to proximate winds in the southern Tasman, but quality will be poor under mod/fresh S’lies tending SE. Size builds from 2ft to 2-3ft, bigger 3-4ft across the Hunter. If you’re keen and not fussy you’ll find enough energy for a surf.

This weekend (Jan 6-7)

We’ve got more clarity for the weekend f/cast and unfortunately it’s been downgraded to a weak, small outlook as high pressure moves East of Tasmania and the trough moves north and weakens, leaving weakened pressure gradients in the direct Tasman Sea swell windows for temperate NSW. 

At least winds will be on the ease, tending light SE to E on Sat and E to NE on Sun with light morning land breezes highly likely. 

Small S/SE swells offer up some workable 2footers on Sat, with an easing likely into Sun and swells tending more E/SE-E from winds off the top of the high in the Central/Northern Tasman Sea. 

Next week (Jan 8 onwards)

Back to typical summer pattern next week with a high in the Tasman and a strengthening NE flow along the temperate NSW Coast. Freshening N-NE winds Mon and the proximate fetch looks quite healthy and capable of whipping up 3ft of NE windswell, bigger south of Sydney.

Size looks to extend into Tues with some E/NE swell from the top of the high also in the mix. A trough will be moving northwards up the coast but unlikely to arrive before close of play at this point. 

Under current modelling we should see a mid week S’ly change but unfortunately the low which looked to form East of Tasmania, skips away to the SE quickly with strongest winds aimed away from the NSW Coast. A following front looks to supply some small S swell into the mix.

That leaves S-S/SE winds to close out next working week and small amount of S-S/SE swell -likely not exceeding 2-3ft at this stage. 

Under GFS scenario high pressure moves into the Tasman with an onshore E’ly flow and workable levels of E quadrant short period swell. 

Nothing amazing so keep those summer grovellers waxed and close at hand.

Check back Fri for a last look at the weekend.

Seeya then. 


evosurfer's picture
evosurfer's picture
evosurfer Wednesday, 3 Jan 2024 at 2:53pm

The misery continues.

sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Wednesday, 3 Jan 2024 at 6:30pm

I’m seriously going to shit me self in anything over 3ft it’s been that long ..

tail high to the sky's picture
tail high to the sky's picture
tail high to the sky Thursday, 4 Jan 2024 at 9:24am

I think we were so spoiled for swell with La Nina that we've forgotten how bad summer can sometimes be. No notable South energy, no cyclone surf, and no trade swells ...... What I've found even more surprising is the lack of meaningful Northeast wind swell. Normally sustained NE winds can whip up some 3-4 ft (junky) surf but for some reason it hasn't been strong enough to generate anything above 2 ft. If something doesn't change soon, I'm going to need a new hobby.

Craig's picture
Craig's picture
Craig Thursday, 4 Jan 2024 at 9:32am

The lack of strong north-east wind is thanks to the southward position of the sub-tropical highs and warm water down the East Coast, generating a weaker temperature gradient difference compared to the land.

If the difference is greater, this drives stronger sea breezes as the land is much warmer than the cooler ocean.

tail high to the sky's picture
tail high to the sky's picture
tail high to the sky Thursday, 4 Jan 2024 at 4:22pm

Thanks Craig, didn't realise the water had been that much warmer than usual.

Vince Neil's picture
Vince Neil's picture
Vince Neil Thursday, 4 Jan 2024 at 9:59am

good analysis Craig. Certainly feeling weirdly sub-tropical in my southern locale...