Weekend Surf Forecast 26 - 28 February, 2016

25 Feb 2016 0

Ben Macartney

Chief Surf Forecaster

FORECAST | Weekend Surf Forecast

Forecast issued Thursday, 25 February 2016

If you equate tropical cyclones to confectionary, then ex-Tropical Cyclone Winston is the Everlasting Gobstopper. Since February 11 the storm has been meandering far and wide across the South Pacific – initially dipping southeast of Vanuatu before turning northeast – at which point it looked like it’s time might be up. Not so. Over the course of last week TC Winston regenerated over high sea surface temperatures of 30 to 31 degrees Celsius and low vertical wind shear. It then turned straight west and barrelled headlong into Fiji, tearing a deadly, 200km to 300km wind-driven trail of destruction across the Island nation last Sunday.

Since then, the storm drifted further west before making a sharp left-hand turn; initially tracking south-southeast between Vanuatu and Fiji before re-curving southwest late on Wednesday. On Thursday morning the now substantially weakened TC Winston turned straighter west southwest, setting its sights firmly on Australia’s East Coast – and as detailed in the recent swell-analysis – is in the process of generating a large easterly groundswell that’s on course to make landfall across the East Coast this weekend.

SEE ALSO: Tropical Cyclone Winston Video Swell Analysis

An impending E groundswell peaking this weekend tops off a wave filled February across the Eastern Seaboard. Photo: CW Plus member Penny Kempe.

An impending E groundswell peaking this weekend tops off a wave filled February across the Eastern Seaboard. Photo: CW Plus member Penny Kempe.

Sydney, Newcastle and the South Coast
If you live in Sydney, Wollongong or Newcastle, you might be hard-pressed to justify surfing the peak of the big ENE groundswell inbound this weekend. The arrival of a cold front across the South Coast later Thursday leads in a strong southerly change across Sydney and surrounds early on Friday – initially offering up clean conditions inside sheltered southern corners. However, an anteceding high-pressure ridge building over the coast leads in unfavourable SE winds on Saturday; setting in just in time for the peak of the swell.

So as I see it, there are three choices:
1. Drive north along the mid-northern NSW coast until you find a point-break or river-mouth that might be making some sense of the heavy swell while also offering some shelter from the SSE winds.
2. Jump on a plane to southeast Queensland and have a crack at a life-changing, freight-training Kirra barrel - or head further north and blend in with the Noosa crowds.
3. Wait until Sunday. By Sunday morning, the onshore flow will have substantially eased – probably too low speeds of 5 to 10 knots – and they’ll be even lighter across the South Coast. This presents better chances for some still lumpy, but rideable overhead surf across exposed breaks. Happy hunting.

Friday
Cranking inside southern corners and north facing breaks. Rising ENE groundswell. Solid 3 – 4ft+ sets most exposed open beaches, rising towards 4 – 6ft during the afternoon. WIND: Early SSW change 15 to 25 knots, tending S, then SSE and easing during the afternoon.

Saturday
Big and unruly. Large ENE groundswell peaks. Around 6 –8ft exposed breaks early, with scope for larger 8 to 10ft sets materialising during the day. Grading smaller elsewhere with size depending on exposure. WIND: SE 15 to 20 knots tending ESE and easing during the afternoon.

Sunday
Dust off the big board. Easing ENE groundswell. Sets ranging from 5 – 8ft most exposed open beaches early, easing to 4 – 6ft+ during the afternoon. Grading smaller elsewhere, with size depending on exposure. WIND: ESE 5 to 10 knots.

SEE ALSO: Big Swell Forecast For The Australian Open Of Surfing

There are some northern NSW points that absolutely love a big E groundswell. Photo: Coastalwatch.

There are some northern NSW points that absolutely love a big E groundswell. Photo: Coastalwatch.

Queensland and Far Northern NSW
As I write, there are men and women packing jet-ski’s, tow boards, semi-guns, 4WD’s and camping gear – all in preparation for what’s to come. 

There are of course about a million other frothers with a quiver of shortboards planning to paddle out at somewhere - anywhere holding the swell. Of course, when you put strong SSE winds across the top of a 3 to 4 metre, long period easterly groundswell, those venues boil down to a mere handful.

While there’s little doubt Saturday will produce big, clean – and potentially epic surf inside these select points and bays holding the swell, there’s little doubt both Friday and Sunday will provide a wider variety of accessible options either side of the swell’s peak.

Friday
Point-break madness. E groundswell. 5 – 6ft+ exposed breaks, rising towards 6 – 8ft during the day. Grading smaller inside the points and bays with size depending on exposure. WIND: Early light WSW to WNW inshore tending SE 10 to 15 knots during the afternoon.

Saturday
Definitely good, probably epic at breaks holding the swell. Peak in E groundswell. 6 – 10ft exposed breaks, grading to 4 – 8ft inside the points and bays. WIND: Early S 15 to 25 knots tending SSE 20 to 30 knots during the day.

Sunday
Pumping. Easing ESE swell. Sets to 5 - 8ft exposed breaks early, easing to 4 – 6ft later. Grading smaller inside the points and bays. WIND: Early inshore SSW to SSE tending SE 10 to 20 knots during the day.

SEE ALSO: Jim Banks On The One Dollar Surfboard

This has been a pretty common sight in Coolangatta of late. Wave energy ratchets up in a big way this weekend. Photo: CW Plus member Rabbit23.

This has been a pretty common sight in Coolangatta of late. Wave energy ratchets up in a big way this weekend. Photo: CW Plus member Rabbit23.

Victoria
There’s no shortage of swell across the region this weekend – and that goes for both the semi-sheltered, Surf Coast breaks and for the exposed beaches. Once again, the sticking point is onshore winds. Friday morning offers up a short-window of opportunity to get amongst some clean conditions across the Surf Coast before winds swing to the south – and that pretty much sets the trend for the weekend.

Southerly quarter winds persist under the influence of a weak ridge extending off a new high forming south of the Bight. As the high migrates eastward we’ll see the usual anticlockwise trend in wind-direction; going from straighter S on Saturday to SE on Sunday – and it probably won’t be until Monday that winds turn offshore/ light and variable under it’s influence.

Friday
Surf Coast or bust. SW groundswell. Around 5 – 8ft exposed beaches early, building to 6 – 8ft+ during the day. Sets to 3 – 4ft+ across the Surf Coast early, rising to 4 – 6ft. WIND: Early WNW to W 10 to 15 knots tending WSW during the afternoon.

Saturday
Get in early before the onshores. Mid period SW swell. Sets to 5 – 8ft exposed beaches grading to 4 – 5ft+ across the Surf Coast. WIND: Early WNW across the Surf Coast, tending SW across the Mornington and Phillip Island. Swinging light SSE during the afternoon.

Sunday.
Clean early, deteriorating later. Easing SW swell 5 – 6ft sets exposed beaches early, easing to 4 – 5ft during the afternoon. Grading to 3 - 4ft+ across the Surf Coast, easing later. WIND: Early WNW to variable 5 to 10 knots tending SW 10 to 15 knots during the afternoon.

SEE ALSO: That Monumental Moment In Surfing

Think of this weekend as an autumn preview for the Surf Coast. Photo: Judy Scanlon.

Think of this weekend as an autumn preview for the Surf Coast. Photo: Judy Scanlon.

Western Australia
It’s a case of the sooner the better this weekend. Both Friday and Saturday morning’s see a continuation of robust, mid period SW swell offering up clean 3 to 5ft waves across the Southwest Coast.

It’s worth jumping on these conditions before the swell drops back a notch or two by Sunday, with much smaller leftovers forecast to be ranging either side of 2ft across the Southwest, while grading to flat across Perth’s metro beaches.

Friday
Pretty good all day. Secondary mid period SSW swell shows under fresh ESE winds early. Southwest coast: 3-4ft with bigger sets at south swell magnets. Perth/Mandurah: 1ft with inco bigger sets possible at exposed beaches. ESE wind 20-25kts early, easing E'ly then shifting 20kts SSW.

Saturday
The early bird gets the waves. Slight reinforced energy of SSW swell under moderate ESE winds. Southwest coast: 3-4ft early, easing. Perth/Mandurah: 1ft. 13-18kt ESE winds tending SSW 10-15kts later.

Sunday
Stay in bed. W swell bottoms out under light SE winds early. Southwest coast: 1-2ft+, easing. Perth/Mandurah: 0.5 - 1ft. 10-15kt SE winds tending SSW - 20kt.

SEE ALSO: Jock Serong's Short History Of Surfer Greetings

Get in early for a few of these on Friday and Saturday. Photo: Dev Coote.

Get in early for a few of these on Friday and Saturday. Photo: Dev Coote.

South Australia
There’s pumping waves across South Australia this weekend as a strong round of SSW groundswell pushes in from Friday to Sunday, generating solid 3 to 5ft waves for consecutive days.

Like last weekend, although there’s a ton of SW swell on tap, light onshore winds will, to some degree detract from this episode. The good news is the southerly quarter flow is forecast to remain very light all weekend – mostly puffing at 5 to 10knots and falling to variable at times – while only reaching 5 to 15 knots during the afternoons. So the upshot is onshore, for sure, but still perfectly surfable all weekend.

Friday
Light onshore chunks: SSW swell 3 - 4ft+ across the exposed South Coast beaches, picking up during the afternoon. Grading to 1ft across the Mid Coast. WIND: Early W inshore tending SSW 5 to 15 knots.

Saturday
Slightly textured goodness: SSW swell. Up to 3 - 5ft across exposed South Coast beaches. Grading to 1ft along the Mid Coast WIND: Light SSE 5 to 10 knots, up to 5 to 15 knots later.

Sunday
Light onshores persist: SSW swell around 2 - 4ft+ along exposed South Coast beaches, easing during the day. Grading to 0.5 to 1ft along the Mid Coast. WIND: SSE 5 to 15 knots.

Light onshore winds take the shine off conditions, but there's no shortage of swell inbound across South Aus all weekend. Photo: CW Plus member Glasso.

Light onshore winds take the shine off conditions, but there's no shortage of swell inbound across South Aus all weekend. Photo: CW Plus member Glasso.

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