EUGENE, Ore. -- Breathing underwater feels strange at first.
You feel weightless and light, almost like a fish gliding through the water.
"Just exploring, it's very cool to explore and see the colors and see what's down there," said Diana Hollingshead, co-owner of local dive shop Eugene Skin Divers Supply. "Typically you can see baby wolf eels, sometimes octopus, baby lingcod, all kinds of little rockfish."
If you think you've seen the Northwest, wait until you see it underwater!
"People like to go to the tropics to go scuba diving," Hollingshead said, "but in the Pacific Northwest there are more color, more life per square foot in some places in Canada, British Columbia and Hood Canal then there is in the tropics. The life is vibrant there's the reds the yellows, little fish big fish tiny Nutabrinks, to big swimming Nutabrinks, to Six Gilled Sharks."
That's right - sharks - and diving off the Oregon Coast isn't exactly a relaxing swim either.
"That could be a very extreme environment you have tides and currents and visibility and waves that you need to worry about," Hollingshead said.
In fact because of harsh weather conditions, only 5 percent of scuba divers worldwide become certified in the Pacific Northwest.
Regardless of where you plan to explore, it's an extreme sport with an extreme set of skills required to be successful - perfect for the Extreme Katie project.
Sound like a rush?
The first step is becoming a certified diver, typically a several week class offered by Eugene Skin Divers Supply, a family-owned and operated business by Michael and Diana Hollingshead, which has been in Eugene for decades.
Training consists of several classroom and pool sessions and plenty of quizzes.
After reading the PADI Open Water textbook, Hollingshead started Katie Boer from KVAL News training in the pool. She instructed her about gear and how to use it underwater, then they practiced drills like establishing buoyancy, equalizing and what to do if you were to run out of air underwater.
All of the underwater training is communicated by hand signals.
The pool training gets put to the test with an Open Water Dive at the bottom of Lake Woahink in Florence.
Visibility is a challenge with the silt floor 26 feet below the surface. Any movement that touches the floor of the lake stirs up sediment and your visibility becomes about 5 feet from the tip of your nose.
The discoveries, however, make the cold temperature and the visibility worth it. Bowling balls, old Buddha statues, a garden bed of old tires, even a 25-foot long fiberglass shark dedicated to Eugene Police Officer and scuba diver Chris Kilcullen, who was killed in the line of duty.
Divers practice the same drills in open water as they do in the pool, each time calculating depth and the amount of time will be underwater for.
Once divers complete their PADI Open Water training course, scuba divers are then certified to scuba dive anywhere in the world, for the rest of their life.
Gear can get costly, depending on how much you invest into what your wearing, but the training is relatively inexpensive - less than $300 at local shops, like Eugene Skin Divers Supply in Eugene.
"We have classes that start every two weeks and they run for four weeks," said Hollingshead. "At the end of the four weeks, you are a certified diver so you can go scuba diving anywhere in the world with that certification card."
The certification will even get you inside the Oregon Coast Aquarium's 800,000 gallon tank with 190 sharks and 13 California Bat Rays.
Part Two: Swimming with Sharks coming Saturday, March 31, on KVAL.com