The Weekend Surf Forecast 17 - 19 March, 2017
COASTALWATCH | WEEKEND SURF FORECAST
Forecast issued Thursday, 16 March 2017
With one hand, Mother Nature giveth. With the other, she taketh away. While this certainty doesn’t apply to every surfing region, the outlook for Eastern Seaboard definitely brings the phrase to mind. The entire East Coast remains under the influence of a deepening low pressure trough that, while delivering copious quantities of easterly swell, will also bring strong onshore, easterly quarter winds to the region all weekend.
In contrast, both Victoria and South Australia experience mostly favourable N to NE winds all weekend – but both states will come up a little short with respect to swell – at least until Sunday afternoon. Over west, there’s a major swell inbound this weekend; arising from an intense low pressure system that set up over the southern Indian Ocean over the last few days. But what would otherwise be an epic swell will, in the first instance, be tarnished by onshore WSW winds on Saturday. It won’t be until the swell begins to ease Sunday that conditions start to turn on under favourable SE winds.
Sydney, Newcastle and the South Coast
Relentless. That’s a one word forecast for this weekend. We’re now in the midst of a dynamic synoptic pattern that’s set to deliver not just one, but two powerful swells; both originating within relatively close range of the coast.
As the current ENE swell continues to run at slightly lower levels on Friday morning a robust southerly change kicks in at 20 to 25 knots; leading in rapidly deteriorating conditions as SSE windswell builds steeply into the afternoon. The change leads in a robust SE fetch extending out across the southern Tasman Sea – and going on latest model runs this will be strong enough to keep SE swell dominant at a solid 4 to 5ft+ on Saturday morning, with a slow decline following during the day.
If that isn’t enough to keep you busy, then just wait until Sunday. Over the same time-frame we have a strengthening ENE fetch developing throughout the central and northern Tasman Sea; strong enough to send in a large pulse of ENE swell; peaking in the vicinity of 3 to 5ft across the region, with scope for larger 4 to 6ft sets across those venues focussing the swell.
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ENE windswell. 2 – 4ft exposed breaks, superseded by steep rising SSE windswell picking up towards 2 – 4ft south facing breaks during the day and up to 3 – 5ft+ into the afternoon. WIND: Early calm to light WSW 5 knots, turning S 15 to 25 knots during the morning, then SSE and SE later.
SE swell mixing with underlying ENE swell. Choppy 3 – 5ft+ exposed breaks early, setting during the afternoon. WIND: Early ESE 10 to 15 knots tending E during the afternoon.
Solid ENE swell. Sets around 4 – 5ft+ exposed breaks, grading smaller elsewhere. WIND: ENE around 5 to 10 knots early, tending NE 10 to 15 knots later in the day.
Queensland and Far Northern NSW
Over the last few days the forecast outlook has been more of a moving feast than a sure bet. Persistent model divergence and regular shifts in the forecast synoptic pattern have lent persistent uncertainty to the outlook – particularly with respect to local winds.
The good news is Friday is looking pretty good across the entire region. A broad surface trough situated immediately east of the region is projected to remain just far enough offshore to keep winds favourable; initially light WSW early before turning to the south and freshening into the afternoon.
The outlook for weekend, unfortunately, isn’t looking so rosy. As the trough moves in towards the coast winds are set to swing east and freshen once more; bringing rising swell and choppy, onshore conditions – not to mention more rain. Saturday holds the best potential for some action inside the points and bays as wind-direction remains ESE to SE; potentially approaching near gale force as the trough moves in during the afternoon. By Sunday, however, may turn into a lay-day for all concerned. A still strong easterly airflow is likely to leave little in the way of reasonable options, so it’s worth capitalising on what’s on offer between now and then.
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E tradewind swell. Ranging from 2 – 4ft exposed open breaks, grading smaller inside the points and bays. WIND: Early light WSW around 5 to 10 knots, tending variable, then SSE 10 to 20 knots during the afternoon.
Rising E tradewind swell. Sets around 3 – 4ft exposed breaks, picking up towards 3 – 5ft during the afternoon. Grading smaller inside the points and bays. WIND: Model divergence contingent on location and movement of trough/ low. Possibly strong ESE/ SSE 20 to 30 knots, potentially freshening later. Scope for lighter SSW to SSE winds contingent on movement of trough/low.
E tradewind swell. Consistent 3 – 4ft+ exposed breaks, grading smaller inside the points and bays. WIND: E 15 to 20 knots, freshening to 15 to 25 knots later.
All signs point to Victoria’s exposed beaches this weekend. A steady run of small to mid-sized WSW and SW swells should keep surf-heights at solid 3 to 5ft levels on Friday, preceding an overnight drop into the 3ft range by Saturday morning. Onshore SSE winds keep quality down on Friday, but they’re set to swing NE overnight, making for excellent conditions on Saturday morning. Likewise, lighter northerly quarter winds will see another great day of smaller, but high quality conditions on Sunday; starting out undersized at a less consistent 2 to 3ft, with scope for some infrequent bigger sets as the leading edge of a long-range SW groundswell start to show up late in the day.
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W to WSW swell wrap. Around 3 – 5ft exposed beaches. Grading to 2ft across the Surf Coast. WIND: SSE to SE 5 to 15 knots.
Faded WSW swell. Sets around 2 - 3ft+ exposed coasts. Grading to 1 - 2ft across the Surf Coast. WIND: Early light NE tending variable, then mild ESE seabreeze later.
WSW swell mixing with new long period SW sets. Slow 2 - 3ft exposed beaches with occasional 3-4ft forerunner sets arriving in evening. Grading flat to occasionally 1 - 2ft across the Surf Coast. WIND: Calm to light NNW to NNE tending light SE 5 to 10 knots.
The onset of a major swell event sees a rapid transformation in conditions across the Southwest this weekend. While Thursday’s large SW pulse settles to more accessible levels Southwest on Friday, this will only provide a brief hiatus, preceding the onset of a similarly large, long-period episode arriving from deep in the southern Indian Ocean.
This event is projected to start out undersized early Saturday ahead of a steep rise as it kicks in during the day, so if you find yourself amongst a deepwater break keep your wits about you. Unfortunately winds are looking far from ideal on Saturday; with moderate WSW winds probably limiting most of the action to the Bays. The good news is light to moderate SE winds are on the cards for Sunday, potentially making for good to great conditions as SW groundswell slowly backs off throughout the day.
Faded old SW swell. Southwest coast: 3-5ft. Perth/Mandurah: 1ft+. WIND: Light and variable early, tending S then WNW 10-15kts in afternoon.
New SW groundswell fills in long period sets. Onshore winds. Southwest coast: 6-8ft, rising 10-12ft at deepwater breaks in afternoon. Perth/Mandurah: 2ft rising 3ft later. WIND: WSW 10kts early, rising SW 15-20kts in afternoon.
Long period SW groundswell slowly easing and improving wind. Southwest coast: 5-8ft with inco 8-10ft sets at deepwater breaks. Perth/Mandurah: inconsistent 2-3ft. WIND: Light SSE wind early 5-10kts, tending S 10kts in afternoon.
You might have to wait until Sunday afternoon before conditions really start to turn on across the region this weekend. While Friday sees a new pulse of SW swell pushing set waves up into the 3ft range across the South Coast, onshore winds will keep quality in check all day.
By Saturday morning conditions should be much improved under lighter north-easterlies, but the swell will be lacking, having faded overnight into the 1 to 2ft range. That leaves us with Sunday – and in the first instance it’s likely to be looking similarly subdued as smaller-scale SW continues to hover around 2ft. From that point onwards things are on the up, with the leading edge of a long-range SW groundswell slated to push up to inconsistent 2 to 4ft levels into the afternoon.
SW groundswell. Sets up to 2 - 4ft exposed South Coast beaches, easing later. Grading to 1 - 2ft across the Mid Coast. WIND: ESE 5 to 10 knots, tending SSE and freshening to 10 to 15 knots during the afternoon.
Faded SSW swell. Around 2ft exposed South Coast beaches. Grading to 0.5ft across the Mid Coast. WIND: Early light NE tending light SE during the arvo.
Long period SW groundswell builds in under light winds. Infrequent sets ranging from 1 - 3ft exposed South Coast breaks early, rising to 2 – 4ft later. Grading to 1 - 2ft across the Mid Coast. WIND: Early light NE, tending to light seabreezes later.
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