Aquaventure Dive & Photo Center is a full-service PADI 5-Star Instructor Development Center (IDC) specializing in underwater photography and scuba instruction.
Our full service photo department provides instruction and equipment consultation, and we have a retail center offering one of the largest selections of scuba gear and equipment service in the Midwest.
Aquaventure’s travel department hosts between six and eight feature trips per year to variety of exotic destinations. Owners Steve and Jolene Philbrook are hands-on leaders who have built a team dedicated to providing personalized service to both new and seasoned divers.
Meet the Aquaventure Dive & Photo Center Staff
Steve owns Aquaventure Dive & Photo Center and oversees day-to-day operations. Steve has experience working in the underwater photo industry from shooting professionally, testing, repairing, and distributing for various manufacturers including INON America, Fisheye, and Watershot Inc. Steve enjoys both recreational and technical diving and is certified on various closed cicuit and semi-closed circuit rebreathers. He is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, an SDI Instructor Trainer, as well as an IANTD & TDI Instructor. Steve’s passion for the underwater world is contagious and he enjoys inspiring others to dream big and seek adventure!
Dive gear: Aqualung Outlaw BCD, Scubapro Hydros Pro, Apeks XTX200, Scubapro MK25/S620, Aqualung i550 computer, Shearwater Teric, DUI TLS350 Drysuit
Photo gear: Canon 70D, Nauticam NA-70D housing, INON strobes, INON and Kraken video lights
Ryan is Aquaventure’s Senior Repair Tech as well as a retail Manager, gas blender, and PADI instructor for Aquaventure with experience teaching in the Florida Keys. His love for diving is easily seen as he enjoys talking about diving to everyone who enters the store. Ryan is also an avid free diver. When not working at Aquaventure, or holding his most important position as “Mr. Mom” at home, you can find him riding hammerhead sharks with his friends from the Shark Research Institute in Bimini, Bahamas. Ryan enjoys the local shipwrecks but his favorite dive site is: “Anywhere warm in the Caribbean!”
Dive gear: Aqualung Zuma, Apeks XTX200 Tungsten, Suunto Cobra 3, Suunto D6i, DUI TLS350 Drysuit
Photo gear: Sony NEX-5N, Nauticam NA-NEX5 housing, GoPro Hero3+, Sealiufe Sea Dragon Mini
Mike is an avid diver! He works the sales floor and is a trip leader for Aquaventure. Mike is a PADI MSDT and SDI Scuba Instructor. “I became an instructor because I enjoy introducing people to my passion of scuba diving.” Mike’s favorite local diving is on the shipwrecks of Isle Royale. “I can’t get enough of diving in Isle Royal. Every time I dive on a wreck I always see something different. Not only are the wrecks pristine, but the island itself is beautiful to explore.” During the winter months you can find Mike enjoying a week or two diving in some exotic location. He has dove throughout the Caribbean, the kelp forests of California, Truk Lagoon and Palau. Where will you see him next? In class or the Galapagos Islands!
Elise was first introduced to diving in 2017 by attending one of Aquaventure’s high school dive trips. After that, she was hooked! Elise is currently training to become a Divemaster and hopes to become an Instructor soon after. Outside of working at the shop, Elise is a full time college student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire pursuing a degree in Environmental Public Health. She is confident that her future will be bright with a lot of diving and travel!
Jace can be seen with his big smile working the sales floor at Aquaventure. He is our tank fill station specialist. Jace loves all kinds of diving! From Lake Ore-be-gone to the Bahamas to Palau! He loves all marine life especially sharks, mantas, and nudibranchs! Jace is working to become a PADI Divemaster and eventually an Instructor.
Melissa started diving in 2001, when she moved to Florida to study Marine Biology at the University of West Florida. Originally, she got certified at a NAUI dive shop near the Navy base in Pensacola to do marine biology research in the Wakatobi National Marine Park and Dry Tortugas while in school, and participated in the SCUBA Club at her University. While in the pan handle of Florida, Melissa dove many wrecks sunk between Pensacola, Florida and Gulf Shores, Alabama including battle ships, tug boats, fighter jets, and aircraft carriers. Her favorite dive location is at Operation Wallacea, a British run marine biology research station, in Southeastern Sulawesi, Indonesia. Over the years, Melissa has done research in the realm of fish physiology on the Common Mudskipper, Sand Flat Goby, Atlantic Stingray, Blue-Spotted Ribbontail Ray, Red Snapper, and many many species of juvenile bony fish. After diving for 10 years in various places around the world, Melissa decided to pursue her Dive Master under PADI. She continued her certifications until she obtained her Dive Master in 2012. Melissa was amazed that no matter how much diving you have done as an individual, you realize how much you DON’T know; when you move on to get your Dive Master! Melissa would encourage anyone to get their Dive Master; whether you desire to work as a dive professional, or you are looking to increase your knowledge-base and safety, you will find the Dive Master Program to be extremely rewarding, challenging, and fun!
Ben “Captain America” Moore is one of our equipment service technicians as well as a photography expert here at Aquaventure. His passion is macro photography. Ben can be seen laying in the muck playing with all sorts of little creatures! He enjoys all kinds of diving, recreational and technical.
Dive gear: Aqualung Zuma, Apeks XTX200 Tungsten, Suunto Cobra 3, DUI CLX450 Drysuit
Photo gear: Canon 70D, Nauticam NA-70D housing, INON Z-240 strobes, INON S-2000 Strobe, Tokina 10-17mm, Canon 60mm, INON UCL-165M67, INON UCL-330 close-up lenses
Erik is Aquaventure’s PADI Course Director and Training Director. Erik has been fascinated with the underwater world for as long as he can remember. He enjoys all things related to water – in it, on it, and especially beneath it! Erik enjoys teaching divers of all levels and abilities. Each level provides a different set of challenges and opportunities. Sharing this unique world with new divers is more than a passion – it is a transformation. Once someone gets salt water in their veins it will be there forever. Where is my favorite place to dive…diving is awesome everywhere you go because divers are awesome everywhere you go! His favorite part of diving is traveling to new locations, experiencing different cultures, and meeting new and exciting people. If you want to have fun traveling the world and diving in new places join me on one of Aquaventure group trips!
Dive gear: Aqualung Rogue BCD, Apeks XTX200 Regulator, Aqualung i450 Computer, Aqualung Aquaflex Wetsuits
Jamie is a dentist and owner of Arbor Lakes Dental. Her other passion is scuba diving. She was originally certified to dive as a young adult but did not have the opportunity to dive as much as she wanted to. In 2012 a dear family friend asked her to dive with him in Belize. Because it had been so many years since Jamie had been diving, she felt she should refresh her knowledge and skills. The instructors at Aquaventure immediately revived her excitement and love for diving. Jamie is now a PADI scuba instructor and shares her passion of diving with people of all ages. When asked where her favorite place to dive is, she will answer, “Every Where!”. Whether it is the pond behind her office or Belize, there are always great things to see under water.
Dive gear: Aqualung Rogue BCD, Aqualung Titan LX Supreme regulator, Aqualung i450T computer
Brett is an Instructor at Aquaventure and works in the engineering department for Firestone. In 1998 he joined the Navy and was encouraged to take a Discover Scuba while stationed in Pearl Harbor, HI. Originally, he had no desire to go in or near the ocean, but his thoughts quickly changed and for the next three years he dove all around the island of Oahu. His favorite dive was a dive site called three tables. It consists of three lava formations that a diver walks on while trying to avoid the sea urchins. In 2008, he took a trip to Cozumel with Mike Daust and soon after he became a Dive Master. He enjoys diving with his wife and video editing in his spare time.
Aaron is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer at Aquaventure. He started scuba diving in Hawaii with a Discover Scuba Diving experience in high school and was certified in Pennsylvania during college. After that, Aaron worked as a helicopter dunker trainer safety diver while he was in the Army and has continued diving since. He enjoys teaching scuba and helping people to discover the fantastic underwater world. Aaron teaches many different classes, but especially enjoys helping out with the PADI Seal Team! He likes diving everywhere, but his favorite place right now is Bonaire because of the flexible schedule that shore diving provides. When he’s not teaching in the local area, Aaron tries to go on warm water dive trips with his family as often as possible.
Olivia is an Instructor at Aquaventure. She started diving in college while getting her Biology degree with hopes of working with fish and marine life as a career. She also worked at a local dive shop during college where she continued her dive education through Divemaster. She now works as an Aquarist for an Aquarium Management company and gets to dive in tanks on a weekly basis. She was later promoted to Dive Safety Officer which lead to getting her Instructor certification.
Olivia enjoys sharing her passion for the underwater world and is excited for all the exciting opportunities the world of diving has to offer.
Mark is a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer. He enjoys all that our local diving has to offer. From the city lakes to central Minnesota’s mine pits to the great lakes. Mark has experience in all of them. His favorite warm water destinations are Palau and the Bahamas where he leads groups of high schoolers on science based liveaboard trips.
Dive gear: Aqualung Balance, Apeks MTX-R, Suunto Cobra, DUI CLX450 drysuit
Photo gear: Canon 70D, Nauticam NA-70D housing, Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe, INON S-2000 strobe
Drew is a financial consultant and part-time fireman as well as a PADI scuba instructor. Besides his passion for local diving, Drew has lead trips for Aquaventure to Roatan and Bonaire. He also enjoys tech diving the great lakes shipwrecks and lobster hunting in the Florida Keys. Drew is certified in adaptive scuba instruction – helping handicapped divers make their dreams come true! You can find Drew in the school systems informing and teaching elementary kids about the ocean and getting them excited about diving!
Dive gear: Aqualung Balance BCD, Apeks XTX200 Tungsten, Suunto Cobra, DUI CLX450 drysuit
Melanie has been diving for a few short years, but became immediately passionate about the sport and quickly pursued her Dive Master Certification through Aquaventure and is now an instructor. She has a passion for travel and adventure as well as teaching. She is a full time Fitness Instructor and Certified Personal Trainer outside of diving and has a love for all types of movement. She enjoys teaching all levels and is passionate about helping people get underwater for the first time. Melanie loves to go on Aquaventure group trips so feel free to reach out about any questions you have!
Chris is a Software Developer with a passion for diving. He was born and raised in Michigan, spending considerable time at friend’s cabin each summer attempting to explore the water snorkeling. He’s had an interest in Oceanography since the 5th grade and grew up watching Jacque Cousteau specials with his dad. At one point we had talked about learning to dive, but figured we weren’t near an ocean.
Chris brought his family to Minnesota in 1992, where during the summer they would camp near various lakes around Minnesota. During a Florida vacation in 2012, his wife suggested they try diving, so they went on a DSD excursion. After vacation, they promptly started open water certification at Aquaventure. Soon after certification Chris began to dive local lakes with Paul and Wright County Diving.
Chris soon obtained his advanced open water certification. Chris loves working with people, really enjoys the people in the dive community, and enjoys advocating for the sport of diving. Through the encouragement of Erik, Mike, Paul and the Aquaventure Staff, he decided to pursue becoming a DM under the instruction of Erik, and is now considering becoming an instructor.
“The dive community is one of the most enjoyable communities I have encountered and am thrilled to be a part of that community. Divers I have met in all places have been friendly, encouraging, willing to share knowledge, talk about adventures and cool things they have seen…and then out comes the cell phone with the latest pictures!”
“I find diving to be calming, relaxing and exhilarating, as you get to live in the moment, and see things most people don’t. My only regret is that I didn’t learn to dive earlier in my life!”
“I have been and enjoy diving in many of the local lakes, several of the mine pits near Crosby, Lake Superior, Florida, Dominican Republic and Grand Cayman.. My favorite dive site is any place I happen to be diving!”
Equipment: i550c, AquaLung Titan LX, AquaLung Balance BC, warm wetsuit for Minnesota lakes
Adam is an Instructor with Aquaventure. He has been diving since 2004 when he convinced his wife to get certified with him to fulfill a lifelong goal. Adam enjoys introducing and teaching new divers to his favorite pastime, as well as helping certified divers gain confidence through diving experiences and specialty training courses. In his spare-time he enjoys diving local lakes, the Cuyuna mine pits, and Great Lakes shipwrecks. His favorite distant dive experiences include Resurrection Bay Alaska, diving with the manta rays in Hawaii, and diving with his wife and three kids anywhere! One day he hopes to dive the Red Sea.
Gear – Aqualung Axiom BCD, Aqualung Legend Regulator, Aqualung i450T Computer, DUI TLS 350 Drysuit
Brad started diving in 2001 when his daughter, 14 at the time, decided she wanted to be a marine biologist so diving lessons were her Christmas present and dad joined in. Since then Brad has balanced diving and a business career and started a dive club where he worked. With the start of the dive club and group dives, he quickly saw the value of further education and became a Dive Master in 2013. Along with Dive Master work, he also is part of the Tootsie Pop divers trip and enjoys the yearly trips for great diving.
Dive Gear: Aqualung Balance, Apeks XTX200, Suunto DCI6 computer
Jeff is a letter carrier with the USPS, but his passion is diving.
He was Open Water certified in 2011. Two years later he became a Dive Master and is now a PADI Instructor!
“I was originally intimidated by the sport but the staff at Aquaventure not only made it easy but made the learning fun. I’ve enjoyed every class I’ve taken, but the Dive Master course was my favorite”.
“I love both cold water and warm water diving. I’ve never had a bad dive trip, but if I were to pick a few favorites it would be shipwreck diving in the Straights of Mackinaw, drift diving in Cozumel and shore diving in Curacao”.
Equipment: Suunto Zoop computer; Aqualung Titan LX Regulator; Aqualung Pro LT BCD; DUI TLS 350 Dry Suit.
Camera: Go Pro
Brittany is a dive master at Aquaventure Dive & Photo Center. She has been diving since 2015. On a whim, she decided to give scuba diving a try while on holiday with her sisters in Moalboal, Cebu, Philippines. She was apprehensive about diving at first, but she is very glad that she put her fears aside and decided to try it anyway. She took great interest in the adventurous aspect of scuba diving, and upon returning to the U.S., researched locations to dive locally.
She continued fun diving, and receiving instruction in Minnesota, taking great interest in scuba travel. She enjoys learning about new dive techniques, and meeting people who are eager to share their scuba experiences through story telling. Whether it’s in the Caribbean, Southeast Asia, or locally, Brittany enjoys diving. She can often be seen diving in the Cuyuna mine pits as well as other lakes throughout the area. She enjoys interacting with the underwater world, and the tranquility that comes with gliding through the water at ease.
She suggests to those who are feeling a bit apprehensive, about diving, to try it anyway. She mentions that you’ll never know how much you’ll enjoy something until you attempt it! Brittany also believes that one of the best ways to meet new dive buddies is to get involved in your local scuba diving community, either by enrolling in a scuba class or by participating in fun dives with a dive shop. She is very happy that she decided to pursue scuba diving, and she hopes to continue to learn more about it as well as to share the rewarding aspects of diving with others in the future.
Brad is a PADI Divemaster for Aquaventure. Brad’s passion for diving started when he was 16. He loved the ocean and wanted to be a marine biologist, but growing up in North Dakota made that just a little difficult. His parents took pity on his plight and gave him an Open Water SCUBA class when he turned 17, but his birthday was in February and all he could do was the confined water part of the class. When summer came he never completed my open water check out dives…
Flash forward 30 years to 2018, along with his husband Justin were planning their 2nd trip to Hawaii. They talked about what to do and Brad mentioned snorkeling on Molokini Crater. Then it hit Brad, “why snorkel, when we can dive!” Justin had worked with Erik Payeur for many years and knew Erik was a SCUBA instructor. They took their classes at Aquaventure and did their open water check out dives in Maui. Brad was hooked, and his love of the ocean came flooding back.
Brad’s regular life is spent working in IT, but his diving adventures as a professional are just beginning!