Surfing with the Alien is the second studio album by guitarist Joe Satriani, released on October 15, 1987 through Relativity Records. The album is one of Satriani's most successful to date and contributed greatly to establishing his reputation as a respected rock guitarist. It is his third highest-charting album on the U.S. Billboard 200, reaching No. 29 and remaining on that chart for 75 weeks, the longest of any of his releases. It is also notable for being the first instrumental rock album to reach the BillboardTop 40 chart; Satriani's subsequent album Flying in a Blue Dream (1989) would chart higher, at No. 23.Surfing with the Alien was certified Gold on February 17, 1989 and Platinum on February 3, 1992; this being Satriani's first release to achieve either accolade, and to date his only studio album to go Platinum.
The album contains fast and complex songs such as the title track and "Satch Boogie", which helped to further popularize shred guitar during that time, in addition to the strange-sounding "Crushing Day" and "Lords of Karma". By contrast slower, melodic songs such as "Always with Me, Always with You" and "Echo" provide a change of pace. "Midnight" utilizes the technique of two-handed tapping at high tempo, evoking a Spanish fingerstyle effect. There are also Nashville-tuned guitars ("Echo") and key changes ("Always with Me, Always with You" and "Echo") for variation. "Ice 9" references the fictional apocalyptic substance from Kurt Vonnegut's 1963 novel Cat's Cradle.
The cover art depicts the Marvel Comics character Silver Surfer on the front, with the hand of Galactus on the inside cover. The artwork is taken directly from Silver Surfer #1 (1982). The artist, John Byrne, has noted that the image was used without his permission and that he has never received payment for its use. However, the album's back cover lists a Marvel Characters, Inc. copyright statement.
Surfing with the Alien has been reissued several times. A remastered edition of the album was first released on July 27, 1999 through Epic Records, which featured expanded liner notes. A second remaster celebrating the album's 20th anniversary was released on August 7, 2007 through Epic/Legacy Recordings; this is a double-disc set comprising the album itself with further expanded liner notes, as well as a DVD featuring Satriani's live performance at the 1988 Montreux Jazz Festival, music videos for "Always With Me, Always With You" and "Satch Boogie", and additional bonus material. To promote the 2007 reissue, Satriani played exclusive club gigs in select cities.
The most recent reissue of Surfing with the Alien was part of The Complete Studio Recordings, released on April 22, 2014 through Legacy Recordings; this is a box set compilation containing newly remastered editions of every Satriani studio album from 1986 to 2013.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine at AllMusic gave Surfing with the Alien 4.5 stars out of five, saying that it "can be seen as the gold standard for guitar playing of the mid- to late '80s, an album that captures everything that was good about the glory days of shred."