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 Zuma, Apeks harness & wings, Apeks XTX200, Suunto Cobra 3, DUI TLS350 Drysuit
Photo gear: Canon 70D, Nauticam NA-70D housing, INON Z-240 strobes, INON S-2000 Strobe, Tokina 10-17mm, Canon 60mm, Sigma 8-16mm, Sigma 10-20mm, Sigma 17-70mm, Canon 18-55mm IS, Sigma 28-70mm, INON UCL-165 close-up lenses, INON UCL-330 Close-up lens, Fisheye FIX Neo 2000, and Keldan video lights, GoPro Hero3
Ryan is a jack of all trades at Aquaventure. He is the store manager, PADI scuba instructor, and gas blender. Ryan has been diving since 1993 and he enjoys traveling to Hawaii, Bahamas, Fiji, and Australia, but you can also find him diving locally in Crosby, Lake Wazee, Ore-be-gone, and the North Shore of Lake Superior. You can also find Ryan leading dive programs at the world’s largest aqaurium, SeaLife, in Mall of America. Ryan enjoys shooting underwater video and has a knack for capturing and creating fun and interesting videos for Aquaventure.
Dive gear: Aqualung Zuma, Apeks XTX200, Suunto Cobra 3, Suunto D4i, DUI CLX450 Drysuit
Photo gear: Nikon V2, Nauticam NA-V2 housing, GoPro 2 with EZUWA Flat Port, Sealife Sea Dragon Mini video light
Ryan is Aquaventure’s Senior Repair Tech as well as a retail specialist, 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
Gary is Aquaventure’s Training Director. He was introduced to scuba in a high school gym class and immediately fell in love with scuba diving. However, life took Gary in a different direction as he went on to explore his other great passion, architecture, and has worked in the profession for over thirty-one years. Gary is a retail specialist and a Master Scuba Diver Trainer at Aquaventure. The only thing Gary loves more than scuba diving is teaching scuba diving! He especially enjoys helping people who have anxieties about scuba diving and enjoys nothing better than to see the joy on his students’ faces when they come to embrace the underwater world and scuba. Gary enjoys leading Aquaventure-sponsored local fun dives and trips to exotic dive destinations. Gary enjoys diving in Minnesota and Wisconsin lakes and especially the Great Lake’s shipwreck diving…and even ice diving! For warm water destinations, some of Gary’s favorites spots are the Florida Keys, Cozumel, and Isla Mujeres because of the great diving, people, cultures (and food!).
“I love being underwater and introducing people to this wonderful sport. I have never forgotten my first breath underwater and the feeling of being “weightless”. For me, I just love the aesthetic experience of “blowing bubbles” and being neutrally buoyant! I believe that I have a certain knack for teaching in a very caring and non-threatening way that helps people learn and get over their fears and anxieties. I also believe that I am able to help/instruct students who may have special accommodation needs.”
Dive gear: Aqualung BCD, Aqualung Regulators, Henderson/DeepSee/NeoSport Wetsuits
Photo gear: Sea & Sea 2G with DX-2G Housing and YS-90 Strobe
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 60D, Nauticam NA-60D housing, INON Z-240 strobes, INON S-2000 Strobe, Tokina 10-17mm, Canon 60mm
Mike is a project manager for an engineering/construction firm full time and an avid diver. While diving for the past eleven years, he has progressed through many specialty training classes including PADI 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!
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 XTX200, Suunto Cobra, DUI CLX450 drysuit
Photo gear: Canon T1i with Watershot housing, Sea & Sea YS-D1 strobe, INON S-2000 strobe
Brian has been an avid diver since 1985. Across that time he has been drawn into many types of diving and dive activities across all levels. From Sport/Recreational to Technical diving. Although he enjoys warm-water destinations immensely, he gets more opportunities diving locally. His favorite dives are Great Lakes shipwrecks – mostly in Lake Superior, Michigan, and Huron. “The wrecks in these lakes stack up to any in the world and are far better than most.” Brian most recently has taken up underwater photography and videography.
Dive gear (Sport): Apex Black Ice BCD, Apeks XTX200, Suunto Cobra II, DUI CF200 drysuit.
Dive gear (Technical): Megalodon eCCR, Posiden Xstream Deep and Deco regulators on bailout.
Photo gear: Canon 60D with Nauticam housing, Tokina 10-17 lens and 8.5 in dome port. Inon z240 strobe for still photography and a pair of Watershot V3000 lights for video. Also a Go Pro Hero 3 for those shallower tight locations.
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 Lotus BCD, Aqualung Titan LX Supreme regulator, Aqualung i450T computer
After a 20 year career in Business Administration and Office Management, Kathy decided to pursue more of her hobbies and personal interests. Kathy is a Master Scuba Diver Trainer and has been a professional at Aquaventure since 2009. She works with students of all ages – including teaching the youngest of our students in the Seal Team. If she isn’t teaching students, she might be found helping customers around the shop. When she started diving in 2007, Kathy hoped to overcome some apprehension of mysterious ‘things lurking beneath the surface’ that she couldn’t see – especially sharks. In 2010 she took a position as a safety diver at Sea Life Aquarium at the Mall of America conducting dive programs in the main shark exhibit. Kathy eventually became the lead safety diver at Sea Life, providing staff training and overseeing maintenance dives and hand-feeding of many of the animals, including some of the smaller sharks. Kathy is also a staff Instructor for the Boy Scouts of America High Adventure Seabase in Islamorada, Florida throughout the year.
Kathy is absolutely amazed at the magnificent creatures to be seen in both fresh and salt water environments. Her joy for diving evolved into a deep desire to inspire and encourage others to explore the beauty and fragility of aquatic life, and personally assist and teach divers in the development of their own skills and confidence in the underwater world. Kathy values greatly the opportunity to help educate and work with anxious or apprehensive students of all ages to overcome their fears and concerns in the diving environment. No matter where she’s diving in the world – Kathy is always willing to share her passion for diving and encourage others to experience the indescribable sense of peace and tranquility of Scuba diving.
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
Gene Milne is a PADI Instructor. Gene’s passion for diving dates back to over 30 years ago when he was in his early 20’s. Gene and his high school best bud, found themselves in Hawaii looking for adventure, by sheer luck they happened to stumble across a local dive shop offering Discover Scuba diving classes. Little did he know then, but that class would set him up for a lifetime of diving pleasure.
When Gene’s not diving you’ll find him enjoying camping with his wife, Jodi, in their home built teardrop trailer, or out on a photo safari exploring the true beauty of Minnesota. Gene’s other passion in life is wood working, where he has become an accomplished luthier and truly enjoys watching instruments that he has created being played. Some may call him an over achiever “Jamie Sledd”, but others know he just loves making the most out of each day. Gene spends his 9-5 as a IT Manager for a national retailer, where his has worked for the past 30 plus years. In recent years Gene has discovered his passion for teaching, his road from Open water Diver to Dive Instructor has truly opened his eyes to the heartfelt pleasure of helping others achieve their goals.
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
Mike teaches the instructor programs at Aquaventure. He started diving in 1975, teaching in 1978 and became a PADI Course Director in 1984. Having owned and operated a PADI 5 Star Dive Center for over 24 years, he has “dived the world”. Truk Lagoon and the Galapagos Islands are two of his favorite diving experiences. Introducing divers to their first experience underwater and instilling in instructor candidates the importance of their role in changing people’s lives are highlights of teaching for Mike. When not diving, Mike enjoys sailing Lake Superior with his wife Sue, and volunteering as a Public Safety Diver and K9 Handler.
Dive gear: SeaQuest Blk. Diamond & Balance, Apeks ATX100, Suunto Cobra Photo gear: GoPro 2 with EZUWA Flat Port
Chuck Eddy has been an Instructor with Aquaventure since June of 2011. He started diving while living in South East Asia, becoming a Divemaster during successive liveaboard trips in the Similan Islands near Thailand and Myanmar. Upon returning to Minnesota, he became intrigued with exploring the wrecks of the Great Lakes, the mine pits of the Iron Range and under the ice of MN local lakes.
Chuck prefers to dive Sidemount in most settings and became Sidemount, Advanced Nitrox and Decompression Procedures certified in 2014. His favorite place to dive is anywhere he hasn’t explored yet either locally, in the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. He looks forward to becoming Cave certified in the not-too-distant future.
Laurie is a PADI instructor with a passion for teaching all levels of diving. She looks forward to local diving events and meeting everyone in the local dive community. Her favorite dive locations are Cozumel and Fiji. If anyone is looking for a dive buddy, give Laurie a call. She’s ready to go!
Dive gear: Aqualung Pro QD, Aqualung Legend, Suunto Cobra 3
Photo gear: Canon S100 in Ikelite housing, INON S-2000 strobe, INON UWL-100 lens
Brett is Dive Master 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.
Rob is a computer programmer by day and a scuba diver, well, whenever he gets the chance! He has been diving for several years now and remembers his first dive vividly. “I remember the joy and excitement from that first dive and being immediately hooked. What I love most about being a Dive Master with Aquaventure is seeing that same joy and excitement with others when they experience their first dive”. Whether it is the local pits / lakes or the Caribbean, Rob loves to dive pretty much anywhere. His favorite dive so far is drift diving in Cozumel. His wife and 2 sons are all certified and enjoy diving together as a family.