A boarder comes off a jump at Wake Nation, hoping for a smooth landing. (Phil Marty/for the Tribune / May 16, 2010)

FAIRFIELD, Ohio — Used to be if you wanted to water ski or wakeboard, you needed to own a speedboat, rent one or be lucky enough to have a friend with one.

Now you just need $25 (or a little more if you don't have your own skis or board).

Wake Nation, which opened last year just north of Cincinnati, replaces the speedboat with an overhead cable system that pulls water daredevils at 18 to 20 miles an hour around a 10-acre lake that includes floating jumps and obstacles. Think of it as a powered zip line on water.

Though water skiing is an option, both beginners and aces seem to prefer the wakeboard, which looks like a snowboard outfitted with the rubber bindings typically found on water skis.

The less adventuresome can use a kneeboard where, yes, you kneel. And, for the most courageous, there's the wakeskate, a board without bindings, like a surfboard.

Boarders launch from a deck next to the shore by grabbing what looks like a typical towline, though it is attached to the powered steel cable, which is supported by six towers that encircle the lake.

With a "whoop," a teenage girl is yanked off the deck and effortlessly splashes into the water, leans back and is off for the quarter-mile loop around the lake that will take just over a minute.

As she comes back around, she heads for one of the jumps, pivots 90 degrees to the right and, with her board now sideways, glides up its ramp and then, holding the towline with just her left hand, pivots back 90 degrees, splashes down and continues around the lake.

Wow! That looks easy.

What doesn't look so easy is wakeskating. A veteran boarder time after time tries to launch from the deck, with just his toes gripping the board. And time after time there's a huge splash as he loses his footing and crashes into the lake.

At any one time there can be six boarders on the lake.

A boy of 10 or 12 launches off the deck, looks like he might lose it, then gets control and is off and running.

A teenage boy successfully tackles a jump a couple of times, then on his third go-round tries to do a 360-degree pivot as he comes off the jump. He makes it around, successfully switching hands on the towline behind his back, but he's off balance on his landing and smacks into the water, throwing up a 10-foot wall of spray as he dumps.

Wow! That looks as if it hurt.

But none of these folks seems to be water bored.

If you go

Getting there: Wake Nation is in Fairfield, about 28 miles north of Cincinnati. See the Web site for directions.

Details: Wake Nation opened for the season May 1. New this year is a smaller Practice Pond, designed especially for kids 5 and up and for wakeboarding beginners. It features an "easy start" cable system and a slower speed than the main lake, where boarders must be at least 10.

Hours are 10 a.m. to dark every day through October, though Wake Nation occasionally closes for private events or for threatening weather. Prices range from $25 for a two-hour pass to $35 for a full-day pass. You can bring your own gear (helmets and life vests required) or rent a package ranging from $16 for two hours to $27 all day. Lessons are available.

Contact: 513-887-9253, wakenation.com