The jersey skiff was originally designed as a surf launched fishing boat. The first versions of the boats began to appear in the early 1800's. Once the boats were launched through the surf they were sailed to and from the fishing grounds. The flat bottom of the boat and the shape of the stern allows it to be retrieved bow first through the surf. Many other boats require they be beached stern first so breaking surf would not swamp the boat. The utilitarian nature of the boats allowed them to become lifeguard and salvage vessels in the early 1900's.
Once prohibition began and rum running became a profitable business, people began putting engines into the small skiffs. The skiffs were designed to run out to international waters and pick up rum form larger slower shipping vessels. The small size of the skiff made it a hard to see and track, and allowed smaller motors to push the boat at a good clip. During the height of rum running as many as 60 skiffs at a time have been spotted off the Jersey coast near New York city. Just as people began to race soup-ed up cars that were built for moving whiskey, boaters began to race their skiffs. The racing continues today, and luckily is hasn't blown up into a Nascar like event, a though there is definitely a similar vibe to them both.
My friends dad is restores classic wood motor boats, and he restored one of these for his son when I was 16. The boat was possibly one of the scariest, but most fun things I have ever ridden in. His wasn't even powered by what the nicer racing skiffs are powered by and the thing still flew. The fun lasted about a week before we threw a rod in the poor boat. I still debate every summer whether I should just save up for boat instead of a nice car to tool around in.