[Folowing a great summer showcasing their range of classic and contemporary bikes at our drive-in cinema, we’re offering readers the chance to win a weekend’s worth of free Harley-Davidson rental. Click here to enter. To celebrate the partnership, we’ve also been penning a series of articles exploring the unholy union between surf and bike culture. Read a potted history of the cultural crossover here, a guide to Britain’s finest coastal bike trips here and a profile on ride culture renaissance man John Eldridge here. To round of the series, we’re introducing the Cycle Zombies, a crew of surfers, skaters and custom bike builders who’ve been passionately riding and tinkering with Harley-Davidsons for as long as they can remember.]
Like so many of surf, skate and moto culture’s most influential collectives, the seeds for the Cycle Zombies were originally sewn in a dusty and dimly lit room, somewhere in the depths of So Cal.
It all began with Big Scott Stopnik, who arrived in Huntington Beach as a baby in the early ‘60s. Nowadays known as Surf City, USA and renowned as the shiny epicentre of the corporate boardsports world, back then, Huntington was just a rough-edged coastal suburb, fizzing with young energy and perfectly primed for a counter-cultural explosion, led by rockers, surfers, skaters and biker gangs. In the early ‘70s, Scott fell under the wing of the Hessian Motorcycle Club – founded just prior on a love of Harley-Davidsons and a fierce reputation. A barely pubescent Scott began working in the clubhouse, sweeping up and polishing chrome and in return, they showed him how to customise bikes. After a youth spent surfing, playing music and building all manner of two-wheelers, Scott got hitched to his high-school sweetheart Julie and soon enough their home started to fill up with little tearaways to whom he could pass on his passions.
Scotty, the Stopnik’s eldest son, vividly remembers the day he got his first bike. It was Christmas morning, just a few days before his seventh birthday, when he burst into the garage to find a mini dirt-bike waiting for him. He jumped on and with Scott senior running along beside him, zipped off down the block. After an enthusiastic twist of the throttle, he hit a curb and went headfirst into a rose bush. Far from discouraged, from that moment on he’d ride whatever he could get his hands on and before long was working with his dad to attach a motor to his pushbike, so he could get to the beach or skatepark as fast as possible. In those early years, bikes offered a perfect meeting of exhilaration and utility; a way for the fun to start as soon as the garage door slammed shut. Both Scotty and his younger brother Turkey were homeschooled and when they weren’t riding boards or bikes, they’d help their dad in his job as an electrical engineer or accompany him to swap meets, looking for spare parts or rusted old choppers they could bring back to the workshop. In their late teens, both brothers picked up a sponsorship from Hurley (Scotty to surf and Turkey to skate) affording them the freedom to avoid a 9-5 as adulthood loomed.
Their cousin Chase lived just down the street and would often head over and join the fray. He too had a deeply held appreciation for ageing artefacts and for as long as he could remember he’d been inspired to collect anything intriguingly embellished with the aesthetics of wear. “There are a lot of creative juices that go through our family,” says Scotty, “It’s a weird thing to be inspired to do something, being around like-minded and different minded people makes you want to go full throttle even more.”
Image courtesy of Harley-Davidson
Naturally, the four of them started designing and building custom bikes together, with a focus on reviving rusted, deceased or otherwise withering machines. After their creations gained some recognition, they decided they needed a name for the outfit, settling on the ‘Cycle Zombies’ as a fitting description. “It was never founded, it just happened,” says Scotty. “Surfing, skateboarding, building and riding old motorcycles, is a life we live and breathe every day, it’s not a club or a gang, but a brotherhood of family and friends who ride together and care for each other.”
While the boys were just doing what they’d always done, at some point in the 2010s, the combination of their passions suddenly emerged as the sub-culture a la mode and soon all sorts of brands were calling up the Stopnik clan with offers to collaborate.
Despite being asked about it in almost every Q&A, Scotty avoids waxing too deeply on what links the hobbies that occupy his time. “I mean motorcycles and skating and surfing – they’re all such different things,” he told an interviewer last year, “but one thing I know is, it keeps you young at heart.” He also refuses to be drawn on any specific job title. “I’m not a pro surfer,” he says adamantly, “I’m a hoarder, a collector, a D-grade mechanic, a stunt man, actor, musician, a failing artist.” More recently, he’s also added father and husband to that list, having brought four more little Stopniks into the world with his wife Lindsay.
Image via Cycle Zombies
In spite of their desire not to be pigeonholed, Scotty and the Cycle Zombies have amassed a large and dedicated following from across the spectrum of surf and moto culture. Of course, they’re celebrated for their board riding talent and their moto-creations; the beautiful custom Harley-Davidsons and the array of other two-wheelers they routinely bring back from the dead. But it also runs deeper than that, with an apparent appreciation for the more wholesome aspects of their lifestyle, when their boards are away and spanners down. Because while making a living doing what you love is always impressive, the Stopnik’s ability to do it and still have time to ride waves, roll around the bowl when they feel like it and spend quality time hanging with family and friends looks a lot like the blueprint for the sort of life we’d all like to lead.
Inspired to head off on your own coastal moto adventure? Check out Harley-Davidson rentals full list of authorised rental locations here and enter below to win a weekend’s worth of free motorcycle rental.