Ironman competitor and model Jett Kenny. Picture: Lachie Millard
Ironman competitor and model Jett Kenny. Picture: Lachie Millard

Meet Queensland’s most eligible bachelor

AS HE wades through the shallows of the surf, flicking back his sea-soaked blonde hair and flashing a megawatt smile, Jett Kenny knows his life is pretty sweet.

And why wouldn't it be.

The laid-back ironman spends his days saving lives as a lifeguard on Sunshine Coast beaches while fielding calls for his next major modelling job or TV appearance. Genetically blessed as the youngest child of Olympic swimmer Lisa Curry and Ironman Grant Kenny, the herculean athlete has an almost unfairly disproportionate share of looks and talent.

With his enviable bronzed body, not surprisingly, Jett Kenny is incredibly self-assured, but the 23-year-old is genuine and disarmingly down-to-earth as he discusses what is his charmed life. The happy-go-lucky surfer is keen to take advantage of every opportunity, and this year they are rolling in thick and fast.

 

Jett Kenney at The Bluff at Alexandra Headland. Picture: Lachie Millard
Jett Kenney at The Bluff at Alexandra Headland. Picture: Lachie Millard

 

Most recently, the 185cm athlete walked in his first major catwalk show after he was hand-picked to model for David Jones. The novice model, who is more comfortable in thongs and boardies than designer threads, walked alongside professionals Karolina Kurkova, Jess Gomes, Victoria Lee and Anwar Hadid, brother of Gigi and Bella Hadid, during DJ's Spring Summer 18 Collections launch in Sydney and in Brisbane's Mercedes-Benz Fashion Festival.

 

The success has followed his first major TV appearances "since being on Totally Wild as a kid" in Nine's Ninja Warrior earlier in this year and Channel 7's one-off special, The Real Full Monty.

 

 

With his famous pedigree, bronzed Aussie looks and friendly laid-back attitude, it's no wonder TV scouts are pouncing on Kenny, who has turned down offers to appear on reality TV dating show, Love Island. Yes ladies, he's single and looking for love.

"I'd love to find someone based on the Sunshine Coast or near home just because that's where my whole life is," he says, while taking a break from his lifeguard duties, sitting on park bench by the beach.

But he adds, he's not keen on finding a special someone though TV and laughs off rumours he's wanted on The Bachelor and in Home And Away.

"I don't think I fit The Bachelor criteria and Ho me And Away doesn't really seem like my thing, I get too nervous in front of the cameras," he says.

"I'm a sweaty mess. I can't imagine me trying to act or perform."

The blonde-haired, blue-eyed surfer admits
he's coasted through life because, well, he can. And so far, it's worked.

Born in Buderim, Kenny grew up on the Sunshine Coast with his two sisters Morgan, 27,
a personal trainer, and Jaimi Lee, 31, a nurse, attending to Immanuel Lutheran College in Buderim and later, completed high school at Chancellor State College.

As soon as he was old enough to compete, as a "quite tall, lean and fast" eight-year-old, it was obvious he was a natural sportsman, who also showed promise on the soccer field.

From nipper, he progressed to beach patrols, and straight after school he became a trained lifeguard and now, ironman. His path was written in the sand.

"Growing up in the younger ages of surf lifesaving, it was definitely an advantage having my genetics and I'd say it still is," he continues. "There's no denying that … (but) I definitely understand that hard work needs to be put in."

 

Australian Surf Life Saving Titles from North Kirra Beach, Gold Coast.
Australian Surf Life Saving Titles from North Kirra Beach, Gold Coast.

 

In the world of surf sports he's always been known as "Grant's son" and away from the water,
he says, "people would always call me Jett Kenny, not just Jett".

"I've always had the last name associated with it," he says. "It is one of those things … Even with day to day (outside sport), it's always going to be who my parents are but that doesn't bother me in the slightest."

Behind it all, there's a likeable and articulate young man who is still trying to find his
own way.

"If I knew what I wanted to do with my life then I'd be doing it but I'm sort of at that stage, wondering what I want to do," Kenny says. "I'm trying to dive on every opportunity I can and see what happens."

 

It was a motherly nudge that got Kenny his first start in modelling after Lisa sent pictures of her son to an agency. He met with Vivien's Model Management and they signed him on the spot in 2016. He had his first job with City Beach a few months after.

 

"I remember going to that casting and I was absolutely sweating buckets, I was so nervous and shaky," he recalls. "The photos would've come out terribly," he laughs.

"I definitely don't see myself as a model … it's not a natural thing for me."

He's since modelled for Billabong, New Zealand men's fashion brand Hallensteins,
and now, David Jones, and credits his looks and chiselled body to his gruelling twice-a-day
training regimen.

Vivien's Model Management Queensland booker Ashleigh Houlcroft says Kenny has
the potential to become "the male version of Jen Hawkins".

"He's your iconic, typical Australian guy who's tanned, fit and has the surfer hair," she says. "He's also got the personality to take it as far as he wants to go. He has no limits.

"He would do really well in places like LA or Miami where they have a big surf and
beach culture."

Yet it's work as a lifeguard he finds most rewarding, describing the days he's saved people
in treacherous surf, although he says he's also seen death up-close.

"I get paid to sit at the beach," he says. "Most days it's pretty tame and chilled … but you do have those days when something bad will happen and I've only ever had one of them. The job we work in comes with risks. It's one of those jobs a lot of people say they'd love to have but it's pretty stressful."

Even so, Kenny appears to take everything in his stride - even his new-found fame.
He recounts the time he "felt like a nobody" in a room full of "big name celebrities" on set of The Real Full Monty.

 

Jett Kenny and Shane Jacobson bust a move for Seven's The Real Full Monty. Picture: Supplied/Seven.
Jett Kenny and Shane Jacobson bust a move for Seven's The Real Full Monty. Picture: Supplied/Seven.

 

"I was like, 'Hey guys, I'm Jett, you have no idea who I am but I'm here doing this thing too'," he jokes of meeting his co-stars, including actor Shane Jacobson and Sunrise weatherman Sam Mac, before stripping bare in a dance routine to raise awareness for men's health. If he wasn't known before the show, he was afterwards.

 

During Kenny's performance a "technical glitch" made headlines after a firework didn't go off properly, revealing more of Kenny than anyone bargained for.

But a laid-back Kenny laughed it off. "Thankfully I had the balls to go all out," he jokes. All puns intended.

As a young kid, he was oblivious to his parents' fame because to him, they were just mum and dad.

"I don't think I ever really saw them as these big, well-established athletes. I just saw them, and still do, as mum and dad more so than mum the swimmer or dad the kayaker."

That woman he calls "mum the swimmer" is Lisa Curry, 56, who competed in three Olympic Games, won 15 gold, seven silver and eight bronze medals in international competition and is the only Australian swimmer to have held Commonwealth and Australian records in every stroke except backstroke.

Equally as impressive is Grant Kenny, 55, who, according to the Sport Australia Hall of Fame is the best surf lifesaver of all time after he famously won the junior and senior Ironman titles in 1980 at the age of 16. He went on to be a sporting great in kayaking (winning bronze at the 1984 Olympics), surf skiing and outrigger canoeing and is credited with raising the profile of surf lifesaving worldwide.

 

An undated picture of Ironman Grant Kenny with his then wife Olympic swimmer Lisa Curry-Kenny.
An undated picture of Ironman Grant Kenny with his then wife Olympic swimmer Lisa Curry-Kenny.

 

As much as they were "just his parents", they were also sporting heroes and Australia's golden couple. And Kenny remembers the day he realised their star power.

At 11, he was competing in state titles at Kirra beach and was out in the water when officials cancelled the race due to bad conditions. Like any competitive kid, he just wanted to race.

"The next day there was a photo on the back pages of the paper of me with mum and dad walking out of the beach and I was crying - I was crying because I wanted to keep going, not for any other reason," Kenny says. "When you're that age, you're wondering, 'Why am I in the paper?' I don't think I could understand why it was me and why they (the photographers) would do that."

The family's public scrutiny came to a head in 2009 when Lisa and Grant separated after 23 years of marriage and as the news broke, the paparazzi frenzy began.

By anyone's standards, it was a tough time but in true Kenny form, it rates low on his scale of "life-changing moments".

"It was never a big deal for me," he says. "When they told me they were thinking about it (divorce), it didn't really faze me a whole lot, because nothing changed," he says.

Throughout his teens, he mostly lived with his dad but was never far away from his mum who lived in the family's other home 10 minutes away. He'd often stay the night or go for dinner.

About a decade later and Kenny jokes that life is much the same. He still lives with his dad in the house he grew up in Minyama on the Sunshine Coast. His mum, and her new husband Mark Tabone, are a 30-minute drive away.

"Mum and dad both get on super well … they are still friends to this day," he says in admiration of his parent's relationship. Even though they split almost 10 years ago, the couple only officially divorced last year allowing Curry, now a health and fitness coach, to finally wed her Elvis impersonator partner, Tabone, in May this year.

Kenny beams, remembering the moment he walked his mum down the aisle. The small, secret and intimate ceremony at the couple's hinterland property, was, according to Kenny, full of love, laughs and music.

 

Jett Kenny walks his mum Lisa Curry down the isle at her wedding. Picture: Supplied
Jett Kenny walks his mum Lisa Curry down the isle at her wedding. Picture: Supplied

 

"It's not something you get to do every day … it was cool seeing how happy she was and how excited everyone was for her."

"Mark's family can all sing, all of his daughters and his son, everyone, so the entertainment at the wedding was incredible," he says. "Then there's our family who better not open our mouths," he jokes, "or maybe we should have a swimming race instead," he says in cheek.

Kenny has embraced his new relatives, welcoming Tabone's Melbourne-based children, Jesse, Tahlia, Leticia and Aliana into the ever-growing extended family. The siblings are the latest addition to the Curry-Kenny clan which already includes Grant's daughter, Trixie, 5, with Australian radio personality Fifi Box.

"Dad sees her quite a fair bit, whenever he is travelling he'll usually go in from Europe, into Melbourne to see her," he says. "He's there a fair bit and has a lot to do with her. I don't get to Melbourne all that often but when I'm down, I'll catch up and see her every now and again."

Family has always been at the centre Kenny's life.

Whatever life throws their way, the Curry-Kennys stick together. Kenny laughs, recalling an overseas trip he took with his mum in 2011, to see Morgan, who, was dancing at the risque Moulin Rouge in Paris.

"Mum just said to me, 'Your sister is doing the topless scene'. I said to her it doesn't matter, my boobs are bigger than hers unfortunately," he says.

That smiling golden family, who have graced the pages of glossy magazines for years, are real, and their bond only grew stronger when Morgan and her husband Ryan welcomed their first child, Flynn, in March.

"He's so cute and so much fun," Kenny, a doting uncle, says.

 

For a busy Kenny, there's little time to find love or think about having his own family, as he juggles a hectic training schedule. He's competing in the Ocean6 Series in Queenscliff, NSW, next month and the Lifesaving World Championships in Adelaide in November-December.

 

His training regimen sees him wake up at 4.30am for a pool set, before a day's lifeguarding shift, followed by an afternoon training session on the beach. Gone are the days where his mum had to bribe him with bacon to get him out of bed for swimming training. Now, his motivation is to keep up with his champion dad who at 55 still competes and trains alongside his son. "Nine-and-a-half times out of 10, I'll beat dad but there are those occasions that he does beat me and everybody rubs it in but he is who he is," he says.

 

Grant and Jett Kenny in 2013 while paddling in the Open Mens Ski relay final at the Murphy Builders Maroochy Surf Classic Surf Carnival, Maroochydore Beach. Picture: Mark Cranitch.
Grant and Jett Kenny in 2013 while paddling in the Open Mens Ski relay final at the Murphy Builders Maroochy Surf Classic Surf Carnival, Maroochydore Beach. Picture: Mark Cranitch.

 

When Kenny speaks of his dad, he describes a mentor, best mate and inspiration. He's been there to nurture his talent, get him out of bed when he's being slack and push his potential.

"I still live with dad and I don't want to move out anytime soon, I wouldn't want to leave dad … he'd miss me too much," he says.

"Our relationship has always been special."

Kenny says living in the shadows of his sporting parents has been motivating - never a burden. He hopes to leave his mark on the sporting world and hasn't ruled out chasing an Olympic dream as a swimmer or kayaker.

But for now, as he watches his modelling world open up, Kenny has every promise of becoming whatever it is he wants.

Because of course he can, he's Jett Kenny.