Fun from the E as winds settle down with a productive period ahead

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)

Sydney Hunter Illawarra Surf Forecast by Steve Shearer (issued Mon Jan 15th)

Features of the Forecast (tl;dr)

  • Plenty of E/SE swell Tues, easing during the day with onshore E winds tending NE 
  • Bit of S swell in the mix Mon/Tues
  • Small, fun E swell Wed/Thurs 
  • Winds shift offshore Thurs as trough approaches
  • Variable winds Fri (offshore in the morning) with small E swell
  • Possible late kick in S swell Fri
  • Small S swell and E/NE swell combo this weekend with light winds- upgrade in size from S possible
  • Potential tropical cyclone in Coral Sea next week, uncertain surf potential for temperate NSW


A few fun waves over the weekend with Sat seeing the best of it- clean 3ft from the E/NE under light offshore tending NW winds before N’lies kicked in. Surf eased off from that direction into Sun with a morning S’ly change restricting clean conditions to sheltered north facing bays. Winds have really kicked up today as a strong SE surge pushes up the coast and whips up plenty of short range surf from that direction. Size is up in the 4-5ft range but it’s a washing machine at most spots, suitable for only the very keen, hardy surfer. A very dynamic synoptic outlook this week so let’s drill down into the details. 

Plenty of size today but washing machine conditions

This week (Jan 15-19)

Very active pattern to start the week with a large high (1029hPa) moving E of Tasmania with a SE surge enhanced by a trough along the leading edge of the high, and active Monsoon Trough extending in to the Coral Sea and an approaching complex low well to the SW of Tasmania. Add in a long tradewind fetch in the South Pacific. All these features are potential sources of surf in the short to medium term. 

In the short run the strong SE surge and associated windfield in the Tasman will maintain plenty of E/SE swell across the region, slightly bigger in the north with surf to 3-5ft. We will see an easing as the fetch continues to migrate northwards to favour the sub-tropics, so expect a slow roll off in size through the a’noon. It’ll mostly be academic because straight onshore E tending E/NE winds will make a mess of most spots. A late swing in winds to the NE may see some Northern corners clean up but expect plenty of lump and bump in surface conditions.

N’ly winds Wed will open up those northern ends more with early winds tending N/NW or even NW before winds swing N/NE-NE. E’ly swells from winds in the Tasman should hold 2-3ft surf with a small amount of NE windswell developing in the a’noon to add to the mix.

An approaching trough Thurs looks to send winds more W/NW or even W through the day, with either a late S-SE change or a doldrums/variable pattern through the a’noon. Fun sized E swell looks to drop a notch to 2 occ. 3ft but worth pencilling in for the offshore winds. 

Tricky winds Fri as the trough lingers and the complex low approaches or moves under Tasmania, driving W’ly winds through Bass Strait and possibly bringing a synoptic W/SW flow up as far as Sydney. Those winds are likely to tilt SE in the a’noon but we’ll finesse that on Wed. Small E swell to 1-2ft is expected for the day. We may see a late kick in new S swell from gales out of Bass Strait. Models are still divergent on this low and it’s evolution so check back Wed for an update.

This weekend (Jan 20-21)

Major models suggest the Tasmanian low slips away to the SE quickly through Fri into Sat with only small S swells into Sat - there’s certainly scope for an upgrade if it lingers. At any rate, a weak troughy pattern this weekend suggests light winds tending to light onshore breezes during the day. Small amountsof S swell mix with E/NE swell filtering down from the South Pacific tradewind band and a small retrograding low near the North Island suggesting a fun day of 2-3ft beachies.

Similar wind conditions and surf for Sun, with E/NE swell up a notch and plenty of fun, peaky beachies. 

Next week (Jan 22 onwards)

Fun sized pulsey E/NE swell and light winds looks to continue into next week, at least through Mon/Tues as swell from the broad fetch in the South Pacific slot makes landfall.

We're likely to see an easing mid week from this source as the fetch slips behind the North Island.

From the weekend we’ll be watching for the formation of a tropical cyclone in the Coral Sea at the terminus of the Monsoon Trough. Both major models are suggesting by mid next week a southwards moving cyclone in the Coral Sea. That suggests high degree of confidence in a cyclone swell for the QLD coast although it’s too far away to have any confidence in specifics in size or timing. 

Much less confidence that we’ll see any swells in temperate NSW from this source. Any coastal crossing or SE track to the graveyard would reduce swell potential for the f/cast region.

Check back Wed and we’ll see how it’s shaping up.


sean killen's picture
sean killen's picture
sean killen Monday, 15 Jan 2024 at 2:46pm

This swell is shifting some sand around hopefully some new banks when it settles down