Does a Full Moon Bring Big Swells?

9 May 2012 0 Share

The full moon rising over the Manly lineup this week.

The full moon rising over the Manly lineup this week.

Words by Ben Macartney

Throughout the ages, full moons have always been linked to human behavior. From occult rituals to insomnia, female fertility, strange dreams, crime sprees and plain eccentricity, the full moon can be viewed as a strong influence on the human condition, or a scapegoat for dubious behavior.

The system responsible for the last week of waves on the East Coast. Source: BOM

The system responsible for the last week of waves on the East Coast. Source: BOM


Surfers in Indonesia know the phrase ‘full moon swells’ as well as Nasi Goreng and Bintang. Though the term is loosely applied to swells arriving shortly before or after a full or new moon, it is a common belief that the large swells arriving across the Archipelago are linked to the heightened gravitational influence of the moon cycle.

The phrase tends to shelved once back on Australian shores, presumably because the gravitational influence –indicated by the tidal range - isn’t as large in Australia as Indonesia. But why shouldn’t there be a correlation here too?

There is little solid evidence to support the theory that the moon’s gravitational influence exaggerating weather systems, but co-incidence or not, the week’s weather system responsible for current spate of easterly swell coincided with one of the strongest full moons in recent history.

The strength of the moon’s influence is relative to its distance from Earth – know as the Perigee, at its closest point. May 5 and 6 saw the moon orbiting closer to the earth than anytime in the last 18 years - a mere 356,500 kilometers from the Earth’s surface. The perigee coincided with a deep surface trough and associated surface low that reached peak intensity over this time frame, delivering day upon day of solid ENE swell to the East Coast.


This could well be a coincidence, but one bloke who’s keeping the faith is a New Zealander by the name of Ken Ring, who publishes his own long-range weather forecasts based on the moon cycles on his website predictweather.co.nz. Ken is adamant the moon cycles have a significant impact on weather systems. One nugget from his extensive writings on swell potential suggests “Perigees bring high winds because the extra gravitational pull on the atmosphere created by the moon's proximity creates turbulence”. You can read more on his website.


But before you get too carried away, there are plenty of skeptics who believe Ken's claims - which include predicting the 6.3 magnitude earthquake that tore Christchuch apart back on February 22 - should be taken with a grain of salt.

Have you scored waves on a full moon? Reckon there’s any substance to it?


Tags: Australia , Indonesia , forecast , moon (create Alert from these tags)

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