During plasma instabilities, “surface currents” can flow at the interface between the plasma and the surrounding vacuum, and in most cases, they are a harmless symptom of the instability that is causing them. Large instabilities can lead to “disruptions,” an abrupt termination of the plasma with the potential to damage the machine in which it is contained. For disruptions, the correct calculation of surface currents is thought to be essential for modelling disruptions properly. Recently, however, there has been debate and disagreement about the correct way to calculate surface currents. The purpose of this paper is to clarify as simply as possible the role of surface currents for plasma confinement.