The Vatican has given the green light to start the beatification process for a Brazilian surfer who died in Rio de Janeiro weeks before being ordained a priest.

The Archdiocese of the coastal city said the Holy See issued the nihil obstat or "no objection" document needed to initiate procedures that might eventually make Guido Schaffer, who died aged 34 in 2009, a saint.

Schaffer, nicknamed the Surfing Angel, was about to complete his studies to become a Catholic priest when he injured his neck practising his favourite sport at the famous Barra da Tijuca beach, south of Rio, and drowned.

The seminarist, who was also a trained doctor and volunteered at a local hospital, was at the beach at a bachelor party of a friend.

"Guido is remembered with much affection by teachers and apprentices at the St Joseph Seminary, where he studied theology," the Archdiocese said.

"His story has increasingly inspired other young people to follow the path of holiness without stopping to enjoy the things of youth".

The Archdiocese said the start of the beatification process was the perfect way to celebrate the 275th anniversary of the foundation of Schaffer's seminary.

A court is now to be set up to investigate the surfer's life and assess whether he lived with sufficient holiness and virtue to be named a "servant of God".

The process to sainthood however is quite long and requires several other steps.

After further scrutiny by the Holy See, a servant of God can be called "venerable"; then a miracle has to be attributed to him to reach beatification and a second is required to attain sainthood through canonisation.