May Meltdown

4 May 2011 0 Share

Meltdown Lowdown.
May 1-3, 2011
Words by Ben Horvath

As outlined in Monday’s East Coast Pumps Meltdown, South East Queensland and Northern New South Wales were the places to be last Thursday through Sunday if you dig sand dredging cylinders.


Mathews slips deep behind the curtain at Solander on Monday.

Mathews slips deep behind the curtain at Solander on Monday.

Cronulla’s Dylan Hannah snares a very shapely Solander slab on Monday May 2.

Cronulla’s Dylan Hannah snares a very shapely Solander slab on Monday May 2.

There was no shortage of swell on the Mid North, Central and Southern New South Wales coasts either, but persistent south-easterly winds limited quality surfable options to select southern protected corners.

However the weather pattern changed for the better at the beginning of the new working week. The magnificent month of May kicked off with that elusive magic combo of east groundswell and offshore winds.

Monday morning May 2 dawned with light, coolish westerlies removing any unwanted leftover bump on the water surface. The wind blew offshore right up and down the entire East Coast at first light. It remained offshore all day in Sydney and surrounds, but shifted south in South East Queensland around lunchtime, which was not an issue on the points. Clean four-to-five foot long–period lines refracted around headlands, unloaded on rock shelves, and wrapped, twisted and turned inside out on numerous shallow sandbottom banks and pointbreaks everywhere.

Expectations were high after a weekend warning blitz by the Bureau Of Meteorology triggered mass mainstream news coverage alerting punters of the potentially dangerous surf. Consequently there was an air of disappointment amongst many crew in beachside carparks on Monday morning, due to the size, or more accurately lack thereof. 
However as the morning high tide dropped, the swell period ramped up a notch or two, sets grew in size, thickness and frequency, and before you knew it there were stand up pits - it was off tap.

Kurt Bull finding some shade on the Sunshine Coast.

Kurt Bull finding some shade on the Sunshine Coast.

D'Bah, doing it's thing.

D'Bah, doing it's thing.

Despite the sweep, there were plenty of waves on the Queensland points.

Despite the sweep, there were plenty of waves on the Queensland points.

Mark Mathews summed up the vibe when he said, “I was convinced the forecast swell increase was a hoax on Monday. Initially out at Ours it was quite slow and inconsistent. There was only the odd five footer every half hour or so. However, we kept getting reports to hang in, because it had picked up in Queensland. I’m stoked we stayed, because it was absolutely firing at six to eight foot on some sets for the late. The long–period east swell made it super heavy. Dingo had his first surf out Ours and scored some mental ones. So did Marty Paradisis, Hippo, Richie Vass, Mooney, Dom Wills and the usual suspects like Ev, Jesse and Bones.”

In South East Queensland Johnny Charlton echoed Mark’s sentiments when he said, “After a great weekend of three-to-five-foot waves it looked like we were in for more of the same on Monday morning. The swell really pulsed mid to late morning though. By 11.00AM there was so much water moving around that only the north facing points were handling the swell. The Pass at Byron, Snapper to Kirra and Noosa were the pick as the east facing points were washing through too much, particularly for paddle in surfers.”

JC said, “On Tuesday the east-south-east swell eased again, but it was still a good four-to-five-foot plus on most beaches. It was a total wave fest, the wind was light offshore, the sun was out, and there were waves on all the points, beachies and reefs. A light north-east sea breeze came up around lunchtime putting an end to a great week or so of waves.”

Similarly in Sydney and surrounds Tuesday morning was a tad smaller than the smoking late session on Monday evening, however it was still pretty much pumping. North Narrabeen, Dee Why Point, The Queenscliff/North Steyne stretch and The Bower at Manly were again the pick of the northern beaches, whilst Tamarama, Solander, Cronulla Point and Behind The Pools at Cronulla were the best options on the southside.

Perfect Northern Beaches empty on magical Monday morning May 2.

Perfect Northern Beaches empty on magical Monday morning May 2.

Another perfect empty slips through unridden on the northern beaches on Tuesday.

Another perfect empty slips through unridden on the northern beaches on Tuesday.

It was still pumping on Tuesday. Rare northern beaches line up.

It was still pumping on Tuesday. Rare northern beaches line up.

James Gumbert dropping right into a glassy one on May 1 as his brother Pete watches from the beach.

James Gumbert dropping right into a glassy one on May 1 as his brother Pete watches from the beach.

Queenscliff looking like Nth Steyne in 1978 the day Larry blair beat Wayne Lynch in The Coke Surfabout.

Queenscliff looking like Nth Steyne in 1978 the day Larry blair beat Wayne Lynch in The Coke Surfabout.

It was a magical few days. The northern coasts definitely fared better over the duration of the swell, but at least southern New South Wales surfers got a two-day taste with favourable winds. In hindsight, the hype leading up to the swell probably lead to a bloated sense of expectation in the surfing community. It was not an all-time swell by any means. In fact it wasn’t as good as the late March episode, but there is no denying there were some memorable magic moments.

- Ben Horvath




Swell Analysis

The source of Monday’s increase was a deep, 990 hPa low now located over the central-eastern Tasman. The storm commenced its lifecycle as a tropical depression embedded on a monsoon trough lying across the central Coral Sea late last week.

On Friday the low began to intensify as it tracked rapidly southeast, maintaining a rapid pace as it swept just beneath New Caledonia.

The low curved south, powering headlong towards New Zealand at about 20 knots as it further intensified on Saturday. It’s at this point the storm began to interact with the broad high pressure ridge still lying across the central Tasman Sea.

BOM
Source: BOM.

The low dropped down out of the Coral Sea and intensified just northeast of New Zealand on Saturday, generating strong E gales across its lower flank.

By Saturday night the pressure gradient between the low and ridge had tightened dramatically, giving rise to a powerful, 45 to 55 knot easterly fetch across its south-eastern quadrant, extending about 240 nautical miles from the low across the region just above the North Island and a broader area of 35 to 45 knot easterlies outside that area, extending about 500 nautical across the eastern Tasman, southeast of the low.

BOM
Source: ASCAT. This partial image shows the belt of 40 to 50 knot easterly winds extending across the top of the North Island on Saturday.

The above image depicts the broad swathe of 40 to 50 knot E winds affecting the region above New Zealand. This powerful wind-fetch endured for about 24 hours from early Saturday before the low moved south-west into the eastern Tasman.



Forecast Overview
A subsequent pulse of E groundswell gradually filled in across the entire East Coast on Monday, the arrival of which is (as of 9.30am) commenced across the North Coast during Monday morning, denoted by an upward trend in wave period on the Coffs Harbour, Crowdy Head and Byron Bay buoys located off the NSW coast.

The swell hovered around four to an infrequent six foot for most of the day, before finally kicking in at a more consistent six to eight feet across the most exposed locations late on Monday afternoon/ evening.


Strong ESE swell on Tuesday
The low began to retrograde late on Saturday as it further intensified, adopting a southwest track that took it into the eastern Tasman Sea by Sunday morning.



Virtual Buoy
Source: BOM. The low tracked slowly southwest on Saturday night, moving into the eastern Tasman by Sunday morning, aiming a broad ESE fetch at the NSW coast.

The movement of the low refocussed the strongest wind-fetch further south; again generating 40 to 50 knot easterly gales across its south-eastern sector, extending about 500 nautical miles off New Zealand’s west coast throughout Sunday night and early Monday. The low maintained the E gales across the eastern Tasman as the low reached a peak intensity of 988 hPa overnight. However, at the same time the broad ridge spanning the Tasman steadily weakened as the associated high moved across New Zealand, causing the dimensions of the fetch area to rapidly shrink during the day;

FNMOC
Source: BOM.

The low and associated fetch steadily weakened on Monday. A subsequent, steep drop in ESE swell follows into the middle of the week.

The end result is a peak in size later Monday ahead of a gradual easing trend setting in on Tuesday. Initially wave heights should hang in at five to six feet on Tuesday morning, exhibiting a stronger ESE bias in direction in line with the low’s southward movement across the Tasman.

- Ben Macartney


Did you get waves from this swell? Let us know what it was like on your part of the coast?

Tags: Australia , NSW , East , Coast , Barrels , Solander , Cronulla , Sunshine , D'Bah , Queenscliff , Horvath , Mathews , Hannah , Bull , Gumbert (create Alert from these tags)

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