Strong weekend of surf ahead

Victorian Surf Forecast by Ben Matson (issued Wednesday 21st January)

Best Days: Thurs: small open beaches east of Melb (tricky winds though, keep expectations low). Sat: strong, solid groundswell with light winds almost everywhere. Sun: brief window on the Surf Coast at dawn. Wed: small but good quality SW groundswell, and possible NE winds - good for exposed coasts.

Recap: Great surf on Tuesday east of Melbourne with northerly winds and a clean groundswell in the 4ft+ range. A little too small for the Torquay stretch but some OK small waves across the open beaches. Tiny clean surf today with the swell dropping right out. A very small but long range groundswell was recently detected at the Cape Sorell buoy (peak swell periods of 15 seconds) but this is expected to peak in size overnight and early tomorrow (and won’t be very large anyway).

This week (Jan 22 - 23)

Note: forecast notes will be brief this week as Craig’s away

Not much surf is expected for the next few days. The small new W/SW swell recorded at the Cape Sorell buoy a few hours ago is due to show best through Thursday morning, but it’ll be barely enough to kick the Surf Coast into action. However, it should offer reasonable options east of Melbourne. Surf size will ease through the afternoon.

Unfortunately, we’re looking at tricky winds thanks to the presence of a trough over eastern waters, and then a weak cold front passage just south of the state on Friday. Variable winds are possible for a period Thursday morning ahead of a developing onshore flow (nothing to strong, though). So if you're going to surf, aim for an early session.

On Friday we’ll begin the day with small residual energy from Thursday and a freshening W/NW wind that’s due to swing south-west in the afternoon. Mid late afternoon, a stronger new W/SW groundswell is expected to arrive (having been generated by a strong low/front combo in the Southern Ocean at the moment) and is expected to peak on Saturday

It’s hard to get excited about the prospects of a late session on Friday as this swell builds, because of the onshore wind - but current model guidance doesn’t suggest much more than 15-18kts, so there’s a chance it could be workable at some spots if the airstream come in under spec. 3ft+ sets are possible west of Melbourne on dusk and will probably be your best bet - keep an eye on the Sorell buoy for a noticeable J-curve, and then allow a transition time of around 6 hours to the coast (the Torquay surfcam will be your best monitoring tool here).

This weekend (Jan 24 - 25)

Good waves expected again this weekend. Friday’s late pulse of new swell should peak through Saturday around 3-5ft across the Surf Coast, and winds are expected to be light and variable for most of the day, with an afternoon sea breeze. Expect bigger 6-8ft surf across the open beaches east of Melbourne with the best waves inside Western Port and other sheltered locales.

Note: light variable winds means exactly that - from any direction. So don't be surprised if we see a 10kt easterly develop at times. It shouldn't spoil the surf too much, but needs to be factored in at some spots (ie Surf Coast reefs) as it can cause some ridging up the face.

On Sunday a reasonably vigorous front will cross the coast, bringing a gusty SW wind change to the region but it’s quite possible we’ll see an hour or three of W/NW winds ahead of it in Torquay. Surf size will have eased a little since Saturday but 3ft+ sets are still possible across the Surf Coast (the day’s easing swell trend will probably be arrested by an increase in low quality short range windswell through the afternoon).

East of Melbourne, it’ll really be hard to find anything worthwhile as wave heights may just fall below the Western Port threshold. And with the pending onshore change the open beaches will be too big and bumpy. I’ll take a closer look on Friday.

Next week (Jan 26 onwards)

Nothing major on the charts for next week. A deep polar low is expected to form near Heard Island around Friday, and then scoot along the ice shelf over the weekend - setting up a small but decent SW groundswell around Wednesday (with perhaps a touch more south than normal). Prior to that we’ll be looking at easing leftovers from the weekend. 

Next Wednesday’s groundswell looks like being only small to moderate in size (i.e. best suited to exposed coasts) but of high quality, and at this stage early indications are for a NE airstream thanks to a slowly eastward migrating high from the Bight across Bass Strait into the Tasman Sea. 

Beyond this indications are for an easing trend through into the weekend. As such next week’s attention is presently focused in and around Wednesday. More on this in Friday’s update.