An Unexpected Journey: Rip Zinger, the global nomad

Rip Zinger
One of a kind. Rip Zinger, with a Zip Zinger. Photo: Dane Peterson

Originally featured in Snowboard Mag 11.3: The Primitive Issue

Rip Zinger’s life is an unexpected journey. Born Tomonori Tanaka in Tokyo, Japan, Rip would cruise around the vibrant, buzzing city on a Zip Zinger skateboard, hence where his moniker began. In the late ‘80s, Rip traveled to Hawaii for a mini ramp contest and it was there that he made friends in the skateboard world who were headed to Japan. “I had different friends that stayed at my house for the first time, English speakers — skateboarders, magicians, musicians and all kinds of different people,” Rip Zinger explains. These eclectic friends inspired Rip not only to open his English dictionary while playing Japanese host and tour guide when they visited, but to live a creative life of his own — a life outside a storage unit and travel bag.

It was around this same time in 1996 that Rip Zinger first had his photography published in Warp magazine. Influenced by documentary style album art from Jane’s Addiction, photographer and filmmaker Ari Marcopoulos and street photographer Helen Levitt, who “has a very good eye and soft, really honest photos,” Rip’s camera became a means of freedom and an extension of his eyes. His photos are authentic, raw and offer an honest look through the lens in which he sees the world. Rip Zinger is not an outsider pointing a lens on another person’s experience — he captures moments as he’s living them. He has a contagious wide- eyed approach to life and anyone who spends time with Rip knows his natural knack for “keeping it good vibes and shit.”

“It started when I was 16 and is still going,” Rip says. “At the end, what skateboarding’s given me is not about the tricks and not about money. What I gained from skateboarding was making new friends and getting around to skate better environments and meet new people.” Skateboarding directed Rip’s path to more snowboarding and he’s even been to the Mecca — Alaska — which he exclaims, “Changed my life!”

“It’s about doing everything different, you know? It’s the isolation of our egos, negativity, traits or attachments. You cannot carry these things around because you’re always around friends and your life is always being in new places. Traveling has taught me how to stay positive. I think it’s better than sitting around.”

Rip had a stellar cameo in the skateboarding cult classic Super Champion Funzone, where he became the focal point of the movie. He then worked in the warehouse at Girl Skateboards for a few weeks. During this stint filmer Ty Evans encouraged Rip to spend time in the States and taught him the term “couch surfing.” “I got this 3-month fixed ticket where you could not move the date,” Rip says. “I decided to come to the States and become a couch surfer.” Rip hit the road traveling to skateparks in L.A., San Francisco and Oregon. “I just wanted to explore these elements of skateboarding with my eye,” he elaborates.

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