The Makings Of A Killer Swell: WaveWatch’s Vic DeJesus Talks About What Made December’s Swell Pump

When the staff at SURFING finally got out of the water after the great swell that slammed the West Coast during Christmas week, we had to ask – Where did THAT come from?

And there are only a few people who can truely answer that question. One of them, WaveWatch’s Vic DeJesus, picked up the phone when we called and gave us the lowdown: What made this swell so intense? Seems like the strength of it kind of snuck up on us.

WaveWatch’s Vic DeJesus: Yeah, it was definitely very solid swell. One of the biggest factors that came into play was the proximity to Southern California. This storm was very close to the West Coast, approximately 1100 miles away due west of Southern California. Plus, this storm did maintain a direct path toward the coast for some time before sliding NE over the top of the ridge that was in place.

This allowed a fairly decent virtual fetch as well giving an extra “push” so to speak. I would definitely say proximity and the due west direction played the biggest role. This allowed for raw power to impact many areas with minimal swell decay.

What was the origin of this swell (i.e. Did it start as a storm in New Zealand, or south of the equator)?

This swell originated in a mid-latitude baroclinic system, which is fancy wording for winter storm. If you remember correctly, early on in the season we were seeing some high pressure blocking issues. This seemed to change quickly with large areas of low pressure becoming the dominant features in the North Pacific. This swell was the product of one of the smaller lows rotating about the larger system anchored to its north.

What was the exact direction of the swell(s)?

The maximum energy came from the W, well actually just a few degrees north of west, 270-275. This allowed it slam straight into the area. Many large NW swells are much smaller in Socal because much of the energy goes right by. This is why {{{Baja}}} often seas more size than we do here in Socal.

Can we expect this next swell to be just as good?

There will definitely be some solid surf coming through. Unshadowed deep water breaks should be seeing some good surf in the 8-10′ range with some larger sets coming through to 12′, but isn’t looking to be quite as awesome as the last one. This storm did create some huge seas, but was further away and at a higher latitude. Plus, winds in offshore zones are looking to crank up mid-week, which will be adding some windswell bump to things, which I don’t see helping the quality at all….especially Thursday and Friday.

Is this any indicator as to how our winter will be?

It's definitely possible. Things are looking good for January as of now with no major blocking patterns setting up, especially in the Eastern North Pacific. But then again, the North Pacific storm track loves to prove people wrong. Most factors seem to pointing towards a pretty good late winter/early spring with some mild blocking periods…nothing like last winter though, thank God.

Thanks for the lowdown, Vic.

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