After a well above average run of swell from late April through to late July, August in all honesty was slightly underwhelming. We enjoyed a warmish end to winter (the fourth warmest on record, with below average rainfall, and very few windy offshore westerly days.) Winds were predominantly out of the northern quarter.
So it was indeed no surprise to this weather obsessed scribe when westerly winds freshened to gale force strengths on Friday September 9. We were due a late season blast, and that's exactly what we experienced on Saturday and Sunday September 10 and 11.
Coastalwatch chief swell forecaster Ben Macartney said, "the source of last weekend's southerly swell was a deep East Coast Low (ECL) that developed off the New South Wales coast on Friday in the wake of a cold front and upper level trough moving offshore. The low combined with a firm ridge building in from the west to establish a near gale force southerly fetch across the western Tasman Sea. The low intensified and tracked steadily away to the southeast over the weekend, progressively drawing the strongest, gale force wind-fetch further out across the eastern Tasman Sea as it approached the South Island of New Zealand on Sunday."
The dawn patrol on Saturday morning September 10 was bitterly cold. In fact when I bumped into Cronulla Point tube demon Gerry Manion in the car park, he didn't think twice before he said, "It is the coldest it has been all year." The maximum temperature struggled to reach sixteen degrees in Sydney.
The bitterly cold westerlies kept weekend crowds to more like weekday levels despite it being the best it has been in recent weeks. The four to five foot, 10 second interval southerly groundswell made it all the way up the coast to northern NSW. The Ballina to Byron stretch was a clean three to five foot; The Hunter and Central Coast regions were slightly bigger again, peaking in the four to six foot range on Saturday afternoon.
Sunday was slightly smaller, but cleaner as westerly winds persisted, and the swell period pushed up into the 10 – 12 second range. Merewether, Avoca, Dee Why and Cronulla Point whilst not mind-blowing, all reported quality three to five foot sets.
Further south Coastalwatch contributor Clarrie Bouma said, "The Shellharbour region was the pick, offering cleaner, hollow options than the Coal Coast north of The Gong."
A secondary slightly bigger SSE pulse peaked in the solid four to six foot range on Monday, but quality options were limited to southern corners as winds shifted SW/SE.
Tuesday September 13 was by far the best day. Warmer offshore NW winds puffed offshore for most of the day, fanning the sun drenched three to four foot SE peaks. Crowds were unexplainably sparse right up and down the New South Wales coast as reports filtered in of perfect empty beachbreaks everywhere between Ulladulla down south to Ballina and beyond in the north. The mercury rose to a more spring like 23 degrees, yet crew were literally taking turns on set waves at usually chaotic suburban Sydney beachbreaks. Bizarre!
Enjoy what's left of the quiet times, because within weeks the groms will be on school holidays, the flags will be back and the northerlies will blow more bluebottles ashore than waves.