Surf seasons and when to go
The best time of the year to surf in West Australia
Western Australia is the largest of state of the country, which covers the western third of the mainland. It is bordered by South Australia and the Northern Territory and its capital is Perth.
The whole coast here is ideally placed to take full advantage of SW depressions and swell trains spraying out from the Antarctic and peppering the coastline.
May to September will be your prime season for these swells with rarer NW swells courtesy of descending Indian Ocean cyclonic systems more common from Dec-Feb. Onshore winds courtesy of the enormous inland deserts are very common in summer and sometimes there is just no beating them, no matter how early you get up.
The season dictates where to surf in WA to a large degree. The north and south movement of the subtropical high-pressure ridge with the seasons leads to vastly different swell and wind conditions. Local effects such as sea breezes also play a large factor in surf quality.
Water temperature varies greatly along the west coast, with Margaret River seeing a range from around 14-15 degrees in winter, to 20-21 in summer. This means a 4/3 wetsuit in winter and a short wetsuit or boardshorts in summer. With air temperatures regularly rising into the mid to high 30’s along the coast in summer, the cooler water temperatures can be a blessing. As you head north water temperatures become progressively warmer.
Spring (September-November) and Summer (December-February)
The afternoon south/southwesterly sea breeze becomes a major feature along the west coast of WA from spring into summer. It even has its own special name, that being “the Fremantle Doctor”. As days become longer and the sun sits higher in the sky, a greater amount of solar radiation is imparted on a given area of land. Combine this more intense solar heating with colder offshore waters and you see a localized sea breeze of considerable strength. This sea breeze tends to form mid-morning and gains considerable strength by the afternoon. This leads to deterioration in surf quality for most areas, so mornings are definitely the time to surf.
It is worth noting that these strong sea breezes also produce perfect conditions for kite-surfing and windsurfing.
Larger swells are less frequent in the summer months, but you still get the occasional big event. Perth beaches are usually quite small at this time of year, so you are often best to head down south to Margaret River and surrounding areas.
Autumn (March-May) and Winter (June-August)
Autumn can be a great time for big wave surfing in the Margaret River region, due to an increase in intense low-pressure systems through the Indian and Southern Oceans. Winds can still be light at this time of year before the subtropical high-pressure belt starts to move north for the winter. As you descend deeper into winter, the mid-latitude westerly winds often take hold through Margaret River, leaving large but ugly onshore surf for days on end.
Perth beaches tend to see larger, stormy waves at this time of year, so it is a good time to be based in the states capital city.
Further north is the best option though, with lighter winds, large swell and warmer water as you head north towards Geraldton and Carnarvon. Be prepared for desolate conditions the farther north you go, and also extended hours on the road.