†yNo list of epic stunts would be complete without a nod to master illusionist David Blaine. His many feats — from the startling to downright bizarre — mostly prompt one overwhelming response: “Why?” But a few of Blaine’s stunts have, of course, raised the question “How?” In 2008, he broke a world record when he held his breath under water for 17 minutes and 4 seconds on the set of The Oprah Winfrey Show. But, like, how?
Blaine spent weeks training with a pulmonary specialist to master the techniques of “static apnea,” hyperventilating before the attempt to expel excess carbon dioxide and filling his lungs with pure oxygen just before entering the tank. (Indeed, being immersed in water helped extend his time, thanks to a primitive instinct called the mammalian diving reflex.) Blaine, who has endured all kinds of pain and discomfort for the sake of his career, described the pain this time as “a whole other level.” After the record-breaking stunt, he told the New York Times, “I still feel as if somebody hit me in the stomach with the hardest punch they could.” His record was shattered in 2012, when a German diver named Tom Sietas held his breath for 22 minutes, 22 seconds.
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