Recreational Kayak Review: Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5

Paddling Buyer’s Guide

The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 kayak is a budget- and user-friendly option for anyone looking to enter the world of kayaking. Making the most of hot, still summer days is easy in this beginner-friendly recreational sit-inside kayak.

With its stable hull design, comfortable seating and spacious cockpit, the Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 kayak is ideal for day tripping on small lakes, ponds and meandering rivers. This kayak is perfect for anyone who wants to get out for a relaxing afternoon on sheltered waters without worrying about tipping over. Paddling the Swifty Deluxe 9.5 kayak is intuitive even for total newbies. The short length makes it responsive and lightweight, but means the Swifty Deluxe 9.5 isn’t as fast as longer rec touring boats.

Built-in rod holders add to the Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 kayak’s versatility as an entry-level kayak fishing rig. The simple design and durable rotomolded plastic hull also ensure this kayak is nearly maintenance free, maximizing the time you spend on the water.

Wear A Life Jacket
  • Everyone, even strong swimmers, needs to wear a life jacket at all times when on the water. It is extremely difficult to put a life jacket on once you fall into the water. Even a light wind can blow any paddlecraft away from you, faster than you can swim.
  • Buy (and wear) a comfortable Type 3 or S life jacket specifically designed for paddlesports.

If you are looking at this versatile recreational kayak, you may also encounter a sister version of the Swifty Deluxe 9.5, known as the Perception Drift 9.5. The specs of this model are nearly identical to the Swifty Deluxe 9.5, with the main difference being that the Swifty is available exclusively from Dick’s Sporting Goods, while the Drift 9.5 can be purchased from Perception dealers across North America.

For the purpose of this article, we will focus on the Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5. If you’re looking for a Drift 9.5 review, this article will answer all your questions regarding that boat’s performance and handling on the water.

On the water with the Swifty Deluxe 9.5

Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 Specs
Length: 9’6’ / 2.9 m
Width: 28.5” / 57.15 cm
Weight: 44 lbs / 20 kg
Capacity: 325 lbs / 147.4 kg
MRSP: $399.99 USD

Performance

The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 offers comparable performance to similar recreational kayaks like the Pelican Mustang 100x or Wilderness Systems Aspire 105. Remember, if you’re paddling any of these shorter kayaks, you are out to enjoy the day, not win any races. Look to the longer waterline of the Swifty Deluxe 11.5 for faster glide and cruising speed.

Generally, shorter boats turn more readily than longer ones; while longer kayaks offer better tracking, or the ability to travel in a straight line. The 9.5-foot Perception Swifty Deluxe offers the best of both worlds in a compact package, combining quick turning and easy maneuverability with decent tracking on calm waters.

Excellent stability means new paddlers will immediately feel confident in the Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5. The low paddling position of the sit-inside design keeps the paddler’s center of gravity close to the water for reassuring side-to-side stability. Compared to a sit-on-top, this style also provides additional control over the boat by enabling the paddler to engage their legs against the sides of the kayak.

Market and demographics

The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 is an excellent first kayak for exploring slow-moving rivers or sheltered lakes, with value- and comfort-focused outfitting and enough performance to advance your skills. It fits nicely into the entry-level recreational kayak category, landing at a reasonable price without sacrificing important features like a supportive back rest and adjustable foot pegs. The generously sized cockpit is designed to fit a range of body types well.

The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 is not a dedicated fishing kayak, but the built-in rod holders make it a versatile choice for aspiring kayak anglers. At just 44 pounds, it’s also a good option for paddlers looking for a lightweight kayak that’s easy to car-top and carry to the launch.

Comfort

It’s clear that the designers of the Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 were thinking a lot about comfort when they designed this boat. Recreational kayaks are comfort-oriented for one very good reason: it’s hard to have fun if you are feeling cramped or stiff. That’s why attention to details like back support and padded seats are so important. These are the spots where your body connects with the kayak; getting that connection just right means reducing fatigue, increasing performance and maximizing enjoyment.

Know The Local Hazards
  • Check navigation charts before you launch.
  • Check with those who have local knowledge of man-made and natural hazards, e.g. low-head dams; sweepers, strainers and undercuts; tides and currents; and rocks and shoals.

The seat design is the shining star of the Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5. The high back pad provides superior comfort and critical lower back support—often an area of discomfort in less refined box store kayaks. Adjustable straps along the sides move the back rest forward and back, allowing each paddler to tailor the fit.

Foot braces are an important feature of any kayak, as they enable the paddler to make a solid connection to the boat and use the body’s larger muscle groups—including the core and legs—for stronger paddling over longer distances. The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 is outfitted with foot braces on adjustable sliders to fit a wide range of leg lengths and paddler heights, although users over 6’4” (192 cm) may feel cramped.

About Perception’s Swifty Deluxe 9.5

Design

Design features and details

The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 kayak is stable and easy to maneuver, making it a good choice for first-time paddlers. Key design features include a 28.5-inch-wide hull with a flat bottom for excellent stability on calm waters; a relatively short 9.5-foot length for nimble turning; and light weight for easy handling on and off the water. The Swifty Deluxe 9.5 has a maximum capacity of 325lbs (147.4 kg), which is about average for recreational kayaks of this size.

When choosing a kayak, consider how easy it is to enter and exit. A good indicator of this for a sit-inside kayak like the Perception Swifty Deluxe is cockpit size. The longer and wider a cockpit is, the easier it will be to climb in and out of. The tradeoff is fit and support—larger cockpits offer less contact points along the hips, thighs and knees for the paddler to create a solid connection to the kayak.

A good connection is a critical foundation for efficient paddling and more refined boat control. The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 kayak cockpit size measures a spacious 42.25 × 22 inches (107 × 56 cm)—privileging easy entry and exit, without being too oversized for most paddlers.

Paddlers will appreciate the convenience of a 10-inch hatch in the stern of the Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5, which provides access to ample storage room inside the kayak. It’s important to note that the storage hatch on the Swifty Deluxe does not have a bulkhead like those found on touring kayaks and even some recreational kayaks. In other words, the hatch on the Perception Swifty Deluxe does not contain a watertight compartment—an imperative feature on kayaks designed for open and exposed waters. This means that if the kayak fills with water, it will not have an airtight space to stay afloat. For safety, the Swifty Deluxe 9.5 does come with foam to add flotation.

Other handy design features include a drain plug to empty any water inside the kayak, and a molded-in “dashboard” integrated into the bow deck. This recessed area just in front of the cockpit is a welcome addition; it’s an ideal catch-all for sunscreen, snacks or anything else you want to be able to grab quickly.

Material and construction

The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 kayak is constructed from robust rotomolded polyethylene plastic. Rotomolded kayaks are made from casting plastic pellets into a mold, which is slowly rotated while heated. Rotomolded polyethylene is a tried-and-true material for recreational, light touring and even whitewater kayaks designed to withstand years of abuse and hard impacts on rocky rivers.

In addition to being long-lasting and nearly indestructible, this plastic is also inexpensive to make, reflected by the Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5’s budget-friendly $399.99 price.

As with any material, there is always a tradeoff. The disadvantage of rotomolded polyethylene is that it’s heavier than space-age composites or mid-range thermoformed plastic. The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 weighs 44 pounds (20 kg); for comparison, a 10-foot carbon fiber kayak would weigh just 22 pounds but cost over $3,000!

Most Perception Swifty buyers are happy with the price to weight ratio, and at 44 pounds it is still manageable to carry on your shoulder from parking lot to put-in. Better yet, the integrated handles on the bow and stern make for effortless carrying with a friend.

Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 kayak outfitting and accessories

The outfitting on the Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 is thoughtfully designed to maximize comfort on the water. The padded seat features a high back rest that is easily adjustable forward and back, allowing each paddler to fine-tune the fit. Adjustable foot braces offer good support for paddlers of varying heights, improving posture and paddling efficiency.

Bungees on the stern deck are handy for stashing your paddling jacket within easy reach, while a bungee “paddle park” on the bow is useful for tucking your paddle under when you need your hands free for fishing, snacking or photography.

Paddle Sober And Smart
  • Never mix alcohol and paddling. Coast Guard and state BUI (boating under the influence) laws apply to all vessels. This includes canoes, kayaks, SUPs and rafts.

Casual kayak anglers will appreciate the two rod holders molded in on either side of the Perception Swifty Deluxe cockpit. For more dedicated kayak fishing, add Perception’s Rod X Pro accessory, which slips into the existing rod holder and has a bungee to secure the reel when paddling.

Also handy is a molded-in “dashboard” just in front of the cockpit. This recessed area is an ideal catch-all for tackle, snacks or anything else you want to be able to grab quickly.

The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 is compatible with Perception’s TrueFit Sun Shield, a thin nylon sprayskirt which stretches over the cockpit while paddling to keep splashes and paddle drips out of the kayak and provide protection from the elements. Pick up Perception’s TrueFit cockpit cover to keep creepy crawlies out of your kayak when it’s in storage.

Opportunity for modifications

Like any kayak, there are countless ways you can personalize the fit and function of a Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5. Glue a thin layer of foam under the cockpit where your knees make contact with the boat, or beneath your heels to keep your feet comfortable. Closed-cell foam, like the type used for old-school sleeping pads, makes good padding that can be trimmed to shape.

Anglers can add a paddle park beside the cockpit, and improve the existing rod holders with Perception’s Rod X Pro accessory for more secure rod storage.

Warranty

The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 comes with a five-year manufacturer’s warranty for the hull and deck and a one-year limited warranty on accessories, outfitting and parts.

How it compares

The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 is available exclusively at Dick’s Sporting Goods; however a nearly identical model called the Drift 9.5 is widely available across North America. These twin kayaks fall within Perception’s line of recreational sit-inside kayaks.

The Swifty 9.5 / Drift 9.5 is slightly sportier than Perception’s square-sterned Sound 9.5. The tapered stern makes for more agile turning in the Swifty 9.5, whereas the Sound 9.5’s square stern gives dedicated kayak anglers the option to add a trolling motor.

The Perception Swifty 9.5 is slightly more stable than the faster and pricier JoyRide 10.0, but the latter offers more premium features. Choose the JoyRide if you’re looking to invest a bit more in on-water comfort and convenience, like upgraded seating and a larger, easy-open stern hatch.

There are many similar kayaks from competing brands in the recreational market for paddlers who wish to enter the sport on calm, slow-moving waters. Field and Stream’s Blade 97 Elite is a comparable model, with more features directed to the avid fisherman.

  • Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 Kayak vs Pelican Mustang 100x Kayak

    Pelican’s Mustang 100x is another popular sit-inside kayak option, and prospective paddlers may find themselves deciding between the two kayaks. The Mustang 100x comes in at a slightly higher price point, but includes a front hatch and large, open tank well in the stern. Along with dual rod holders, this makes the Mustang 100x a better choice for dedicated kayak fishing.

    Material-wise, both kayaks are constructed from durable rotomolded polyethylene plastic. Pelican’s Mustang 100x is slightly lighter at 39 lbs, versus the Perception Swifty’s 44 lbs. If you’re torn between the two, test paddle both and see if one fits or performs better for your needs.

Man paddling red sit-inside kayak
Photo: Courtesy Perception

Where to buy the Swifty Deluxe 9.5

The Perception Swifty Deluxe 9.5 is available exclusively at Dick’s Sporting Goods. Outside of Dick’s, look for the Perception Drift 9.5—the Swifty’s nearly identical twin, sharing the same design, construction and intended use. Find the Drift 9.5 at paddlesports retailers across North America, or use Perception’s dealer locator.

Pros and cons

Pros

  • Intuitive, stable and responsive design is perfect for beginner and intermediate kayakers looking to explore calm waters
  • Competitive price point
  • Sturdy, rotomolded polyethylene construction with 5-year warranty
  • Relatively lightweight for easy carrying to the water and loading onto a vehicle
  • Comfortable seat with high back rest for lumbar support
  • Large, open cockpit for easy entry and exit

Cons

  • Taller paddlers may feel cramped in a 9.5-foot kayak; opt instead for a boat longer than 10 feet
  • No padding where knees meet the cockpit
  • No bulkhead/watertight chamber for flotation—a critical safety feature if paddling on more exposed waters

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