Surfing With A Custom Harley Sportster!

A custom Harley Sportster that carves up the road and waves

It was a battle of epic proportions. Way back in 2016 the best builders from 64 Harley-Davidson dealerships across this great nation were called upon to pick up their wrenches!

The exhaust side of this custom Harley Sportster aptly named "Surfster."
The exhaust side of this custom Harley Sportster aptly named “Surfster.”

Their mission? Duke it out in The Motor Company’s second annual Custom Kings Contest. The rules? Customize a Harley Sportster. If they decided to use any parts from the H-D Parts & Accessories catalog, then all the more power to ’em.
There were six rounds of four head-to-head matchups. And the victors were chosen by you. Man! Democracy is awesome.

One of the contenders in last year’s competition was Paradise Harley-Davidson, located in Tigard, Oregon. As you can see, there’s something unique about this bike that caught our attention. Here’s a hint: it’s on the left side of the Sporty. Yup, it’s that sweet wooden surfboard made by Yana Surfboards in Oregon. We don’t see many of those in Connecticut, even in Stamford where our headquarters is located (near the Atlantic Ocean). The waves here are pretty lame. The best we can do is boogieboard. And even that is boring.

But that’s not the case in Oregon…or most of the West Coast, for that matter. They have places like Cannon Beach, Haystack Rock, and, of course, the Oregon coast, which ended up being a huge inspiration for the Paradise H-D team when coming up with its Sportster’s theme. “There are incredible beaches just an hour away,” says Paradise H-D’s shop foreman Jon Allen. “As you might expect, many of us grew up surfing.”

Clutch side of the custom Harley Sportster, sans board.
Clutch side of the custom Harley Surfster, sans board.

The person who came up with the idea of making an XL with a surfboard was Paradise’s local H-D representative. “He’s an avid outdoor enthusiast,” Jon says. “One of his favorite activities is surfing. He definitely rekindled our build team’s passion for the sport.”

While a gnarly idea, there’s another reason why they chose going off route. “We were in the process of opening The PDX Speed Shop Harley-Davidson in downtown Portland,” Jon continues. “So we wanted to do something unique that appealed to Portland’s young urban market.”

The team that made it all happen consisted of four technicians led by Jon, who was responsible for managing the group to ensure they finished the build on time. Jon had a clear vision for the project and took charge of ordering parts and accessories. After choosing the theme, they felt the Seventy-Two would be the perfect Sportster platform.

While coming up with the idea of making a Sportster with a surfboard might’ve been easy enough, getting the actual board onto the bike was a whole other clean up set to conquer. As Jon says, “it posed a challenge.” By that he means figuring out how to properly install a rack. After sourcing through several parts, which Jon deemed as failed products, he realized that the best way to do this was to modify the exhaust system (a SuperTrapp Scrambler). “We ended up using exhaust tubing that we bent appropriately and then custom-made the brackets,” Jon explains. “Once shaped, we had the rack leather wrapped. We designed quick-release pins that make the rack easy to remove and install.”

The custom Harley Sportster, ready to catch a wave or carve up the canyon.
The custom Harley Surfster, ready to catch a wave or carve up the canyon.

But they didn’t start the build there. The team began by working on the rear section, which involved lacing the 18″ back wheel (and wrapping it in Kenda Trials), hand-cutting the rear fender, and handmaking the struts and rail. The license bracket was also handmade. Other fabricated parts include the front fender (it was raised by 1″) and the headlight’s grill cover. Oh, and the final drive is a chain drive conversion by Paradise as well. But the real crankin’ job was getting the surfboard on there.

That said, the build wasn’t all about building a bike that could hold a surfboard. “Our primary design was to make the motorcycle paint look like a Woodie wagon from the 1950s and ’60s,” says Jon. For those unfamiliar with the term, Woodies were vehicles with wood bodies. In their heyday, these vehicles were usually one of the more expensive ones on the market.

To best capture that style, Paradise H-D turned to Eddie at Bent Metal Kustoms in Hillsboro, Oregon. In fact, Eddie was involved in the first design meeting. “The paint ties in perfectly with Yana’s surfboard,” Jon comments about the final look. And what do you end up calling a Sportster that has a surfboard strapped onto its left side? You mesh the words together. And what do you get? Surfster. That’s awesome.

After one month in the shop, Surfster was finished. Surfster then charged into the Custom Kings Contest and made it in the top 16, which is a high percentile, seeing as there were 64 bikes in total. But remember, Surfster wasn’t built just to face off against the other Sportys. It was also made to be showcased at Paradise’s other location in downtown Portland. So you can bet that after the competition, the bike was put up on display immediately. But it didn’t stay there long.

“One of our customers, Randy Whiteman, was walking by the shop one day,” recalls Jon. “He saw it, loved it, and bought it.” As you can imagine, Randy still loves it, but not just because it has a sick paint job and a surfboard. “It’s smooth and super-comfortable,” Randy says. “Out of every bike I’ve ever been on, this is the most fun to ride.”

There’s something else you might find interesting about Randy. He bought the bike Paradise originally built for the first-ever Custom Kings Contest in 2015. Huh! If Paradise H-D enters this year’s Custom Kings competition, we wonder if Randy will end up buying that one, too. One thing’s for sure. Like Surfster, it’s going to be one choka bike. RC