When I was a teenager I used to enjoy testing my ability to hold me breath. My eventual record was 2 minutes and 8 seconds. I was pretty happy with that but I was aware that pros like Houdini and pearl divers could do that same for 4 or 5 minutes.
Then I read this report about what seems to be a bogus claim to have set the record at 15:58! It might be true, but there are some definite doubts cast in the comments attached to the article.
A more accepted record is 13:42 set by a guy named Robert Foster in 1959. That one was included in the Guinness Book of Records until they stopped reporting records that may tempt dangerous attempts.
This is the text from the 1978 edition of the book:
The world record for voluntarily staying underwater is 13 min 42.5 sec by Robert Foster, aged 32, an electronics technician of Richmond, California, who stayed under 10 ft 3.05m of water in the swimming pool of the Bermuda Palms Motel at San Rafeal, California, USA, on 15 March 1959. He hyperventilated with oxygen for 30 min before his descent. The longest unprepared record is 6 min 29.8 sec by Georges Pouliquin in Paris on 3 Nov. 1912. It must be stressed that record-breaking of this kind is extremely dangerous.
These are incredible records – even 5 minutes is a very, very long time to imagine not breathing. 2:08 is more than enough for me!