Mount Maunganui Lifeguard Service has surged ahead of the competition on the first day of the TSB Bank Surf Life Saving Championships held at New Brighton in Christchurch on Friday.

The annual event, which returned to Christchurch City this year after organisers were forced to move the 2011 event from Christchurch to Mount Maunganui, has been led by the eastern region team from early on, although teams from around the country are on a charge.

Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club from Gisborne sit in second place, ahead of third-placed Ocean Beach Kiwi Surf Life Saving Club from Hawke's Bay.

Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club have far fewer competitors than their counterparts, with only 31, compared to Mount Maunganui's 69, but are a mere four points behind.

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Sitting in fourth place is Waimairi Surf Life Saving Club from Christchurch, while a northern club, Mairangi Bay Surf Life Saving Club, rounds out the top five.

Event officials said it was a credit to the skill of lifeguards right around the country with every region represented in the top five after the first day of the three-day event.

TSB Bank New Zealand Surf Life Saving Championships event manager, Prue Younger, said the first day was perfect and he was thrilled everyone seemed to be thoroughly enjoying the event.

"Honestly, it has been the best start we could have imagined for the TSB Bank Surf Life Saving Championships. The weather and surf conditions have been ideal, the competitors have been fair but feisty and it's just been a really great atmosphere here," she said.

"I also think having the nationals return here to the South Island has attracted a great turnout from athletes and spectators which is always great for the sport and the local community too."

Younger said she was excited for the next two days of action as the teams promised to fight back against the current leaders.

"The buzz around the beach has been that everyone wants this win and they're all going to push hard to close the gap to Mount Maunganui [Lifeguard Service]. It will definitely be a close day of racing tomorrow, so I'm looking forward to it, and I'm sure all of their supporters are too."