Scattering of fast atoms and ions from surfaces under glancing angles of incidence proceeds in the regime of ‘surface channeling’ where projectiles are steered in terms of small angle collisions by atoms of the topmost layer of the surface. Collisions with the solid under these conditions are characterized by defined trajectories for the ensemble of scattered projectiles that is the basis for a detailed model description of the interaction mechanisms. An overview will be presented concerning the different aspects and techniques that demonstrate the substantial potential of surface channeling for studies on the ion–surface interactions and on the structure of surfaces. As examples will be discussed, studies on charge transfer, electron emission phenomena, interactions with insulators, investigation of growth, and structure of ultrathin films, as well as the recently discovered fast atom diffraction. Copyright © 2014 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.